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Records: Massachusetts, 6-10 overall, 4-1 Atlantic Ten Conference; La Salle, 7-9, 1-4.
Coaches: Massachusetts, Bruiser Flint (fifth season, 77-67); La Salle, Speedy Morris (15th season, 233-195).
Key players: For Massachusetts, Monty Mack, G, 6-3, Sr. (17.9 ppg.); Kitwana Rhymer, C-F, 6-10, Sr. (10.4 ppg., 7.7 rpg., 2.3 blocked shots); Shannon Crooks, G, 6-2, Jr. (9.6 ppg.); Micah Brand, C-F, 6-11, Soph. (8.8 ppg.).
For La Salle, Rasual Butler, G-F, 6-7, Jr. (20.8 ppg., 6.5 rpg.); Victor Thomas, F, 6-7, Sr. (19.9 ppg., 7.1 rpg.); Julian Blanks, G, 6-2, Jr. (10.8 ppg., 5.9 apg.); Garrett Bragg, C, 6-11, Sr. (7.8 ppg., 5.5 rpg.).
Massachusetts preview: The Minutemen went 2-9 in the nonconference portion of their schedule, then turned their fortunes around with the start of the A-10 season. Their only loss in conference play came on a buzzer-beater at St. Bonaventure. On Saturday, they posted an 80-69 win at home over Duquesne, a game in which they shot 55 percent from the field.
La Salle update: The Explorers shot only 30 percent from the field - their second-worst showing of the season - and were hammered, 62-43, at Dayton on Sunday. Thomas was the only player in double figures with 15 points. Butler was held to six points, only the fifth time in his career he has finished out of double figures. Butler ranks first in the Atlantic Ten and 18th nationally in scoring, and is tied for 13th in the nation in three-point baskets (3.3 per game). Thomas is third in the A-10 in scoring and 34th nationally. Blanks has been overtaken by Jameer Nelson of St. Joseph's for the conference lead in assists.
HILADELPHIA - The game had been hyped as a battle of two of the Atlantic 10 Conference's best guards: La Salle's Donnie Carr vs. Monty Mack of the University of Massachusetts at Tom Gola Arena with ESPN2's viewers looking on.
Carr wasn't great, shooting 5-for-14, but Mack was appalling. He hit just 1-of-13 shots, and for the first time since the Explorers joined the A-10, they beat the Minutemen, 63-60.
Mack wasn't alone among the strugglers in that game two seasons ago. Then-senior center Lari Ketner missed 16-of-21 shots, most from within 8 feet.
UMass coach Bruiser Flint bristled at the memory.
"My two best guys were awful that night," Flint said, shaking his head. "Awful."
Tonight at 7 the Minutemen return to Gola for the first time since that night. (UMass routed La Salle at the Mullins Center last season, 82-48). Ketner is long gone, but Mack hopes to exorcise some demons.
"I've had some nightmares in there," Mack said. "I'll try to get out there a little early and try to get a feel for the gym."
The Minutemen return to the road, winners of two straight and four of their last five. They'll play twice in Bruiser Flint's boyhood home, heading to Temple for a noon game Saturday.
Year in and year out, La Salle is a coach's nightmare. The Explorers' record never is especially good, but their talent is always unmistakable. Each year they seem to put everything together at least once and pull off an upset.
The current edition of Speedy Morris' squad is 7-9 (1-4 A-10). The Explorers have faced some of the conference's better teams early, dropping games to Temple, Xavier, George Washington and Dayton.
La Salle boasts the Atlantic 10's top scoring duo in Rasual Butler and Victor Thomas. Butler, a 6-foot-8 small forward, leads the conference at 21.8 points per game.
Thomas, a 6-7 guard, is third at 19.9 points per game and is eighth in the league with 7.1 rebounds per game.
Winston Smith will guard Butler and Shannon Crooks will cover Thomas.
"They're averaging 40 points between them," Flint said of the La Salle duo. "They score. They're big. You can't let the other guys kill you. You can't let James Jordan or Garrett Bragg or Julian Blanks have big games against you."
"We have to contain Butler and Victor Thomas," Mack said. "If we contain them and make them take tough shots, we'll be fine."
Mack will guard Blanks, the Explorers' junior point guard, who is second in assists with 5.94 per game.
"He's a lefty. He likes to penetrate and kick (the ball out) a lot," Mack said.
Notes: Mack needs 14 points to hit 1,900 for his career and 20 to pass Lou Roe (1,905) in second place on the Minuteman career scoring chart.
La Salle freshman guard Rasheed Quadri played with UMass' Raheim Lamb, who is sitting out this year as a partial qualifier.