Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Season Ends With Disappointing 70-61 NIT Loss To Minnesota

Playing in front of a sold-out and energized Gola Arena crowd ended up not being enough as the La Salle Explorers fell to Minnesota 80-71 in a first round NIT game.  La Salle jumped out to an eight point lead midway through the first half but Minnesota clawed back to take a 40-37 lead into halftime behind a 8-0 run over the last two minutes.  The Explorers led for most of the half but could not hold off the Gophers down the stretch.

In the second half, Minnesota kept La Salle at bay early but the Explorers were able to scratch back and take a number of small leads from the fifteen minute mark until there were nine minutes left when the score was knotted at 55.  The Gophers went on a mini-run, extending their lead to seven with 1:43 left on a Rodney Williams putback.  The Explorers were only able to manage one Earl Pettis basket the rest of the way while Minnesota combined a Julian Welch layup and two foul shots by Joe Coleman to give them the nine point victory.

Pettis finished his La Salle career scoring 19 points to lead three Explorers in double figures.  Ramon Galloway added 13 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists while Jerrell Wright chipped in with 12 points and 7 rebounds.  Williams was one of three Gopher players in double figures, leading them with 21 points and 6 rebounds.  Minnesota will advance to play the University of MIami in a second round NIT matchup.

Congratulations and best of luck to La Salle seniors Earl Pettis and Matt Sheehan on fine careers and helping lead the 2011-12 Explorers to the school's first postseason bid in 20 years.  Explorer fans are no doubt already waiting for the 2012-13 season to begin as the future looks bright at 20th and Olney with four starters and eight players who averaged double figure minutes returning.  They will also add Virginia Tech transfer and former Philadelphia high school star guard Tyrone Garland, redshirt freshman forward Rohan Brown, and true freshman center Jermaine Davis to the roster.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

La Salle Gets NIT Invite For First Post Season Berth In 20 Years

La Salle's consistent play over the entire season was probably the key factor in the Explorer's first postseason invitation in 20 years as the NIT came calling on Sunday night.  La Salle was one of only three teams across the country to never lose a game by double figures.  Wins over NCAA tournament participants Xavier and St.Bonaventure along with three total wins over NIT tournament participants UMass and Bucknell helped pave the way to the Explorers not only getting the NIT bid, but also securing a 3 seed and getting a nationally-televised home game against Big 10 member Minnesota.  The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Wednesday night at 7pm.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Explorers Fall To St.Louis 78-71 In A10 Quarterfinals

Cold first half shooting and some late defensive lapses were the difference in La Salle's 78-71 quarterfinal loss to St.Louis in the Atlantic Ten tournament.  The Explorers had to fight uphill all game as they fell behind by a 14-2 score only five minutes into the game.  La Salle got numerous open looks against the typically stingy Billiken defense but could only make 37.5% of them in the first half with the majority of them coming in the first five minutes.
Just when it looked like St.Louis might cruise to an easy victory, the Explorers inched their way back, cutting the Billikens lead to one point on three different occasions, the last with just under six minutes to go in the first half.  St.Louis responded with a 17-7 run until a late Earl Pettis three brought La Salle within six points at the half. 

The Billikens kept the Explorers at bay early in the second half and were able to extend their lead to eleven with ten minutes to play.  And once again, La Salle fought back to a 57-56 deficit with just over four minutes left.  But the Explorer defense was caught sleeping as St. Louis' Brian Conklin slipped inside for two easy baskets sandwiched around a make by Pettis and the final dagger was a three by the Billiken's Mike McCall which point St.Louis up by seven points 1:34 to go.  Pettis gave La Salle some life by making all three free throws after being fouled while shooting from beyond the arc which cut the Billiken lead to four.  But the Explorers were forced to foul the rest of the way and St.Louis went 9-9 from the line in the last minute to clinch the win.

In what might be his last game in a La Salle uniform, Earl Pettis hit a number of big shots and led the team with 18 points.  Also in double figures for the Explorers were Ramon Galloway, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half, and Tyreek Duren (13).  For St.Louis, Mike McCall (16) led four players in double figures.

With the loss, La Salle falls to 21-11 on the season, and will be crossing their fingers hoping for an invitation to either the NIT, CBI, or CIT tournaments.  St. Louis improves to 25-6 and will face Xavier in a semifinal matchup on Friday night.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

La Salle Moves To AC With 80-72 Win Over Richmond

Balanced scoring and an outstanding defensive effort by the Explorers frontline led La Salle to a 80-72 first round A10 tournament win over the Richmond Spiders.  After a nip and tuck battle through the first fifteen minutes, La Salle finally took the lead for good with a little over four minutes to go in the first half and extended it to a 40-33 lead at the half.

Richmond kept it close, cutting the Explorers lead to 3 with just over eleven minutes to go in the game, when La Salle went on a 21-7 run giving them a 15 point lead with just under four minutes to play.  The Explorers coasted the rest of the way for the eight point win.

Ramon Galloway led the way with 17 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds while Earl Pettis (15), Jerrell Wright (14), and Devon White (13) also scored in double figures.  Tyreek Duren and Sam Mills combined for 16 points and 6 assists.  Wright and White also did an outstanding job shutting down Richmond's Derrick Williams, holding him to 14 points and 10 rebounds after he dominated the Explorers in the regular season matchup between the two teams. 

Darien Brothers singlehandedly kept the Spiders in the game while scoring 22 first half points but was kept in check by the defense of Galloway in the second half.  Brothers finished with 31 points.

With the win, the Explorers improve to 21-11 on the season and will advance to an A10 quarterfinal matchup against Saint Louis on Thursday.  Richmond finished their season with a 16-16 record.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Explorers Grab 20th Win In 71-61 Victory Over St.Bonaventure

La Salle reached the 20 win mark for the first time in two decades and sent a Senior Day crowd home happy with an impressive 71-61 victory over St. Bonaventure.  Seniors Earl Pettis and Matt Sheehan were honored before the game and crowd favorite Sheehan was awarded his first start in an Explorer uniform.  La Salle came out aggressive early, holding Bonnies star Andrew Nicholson to only four first half points, which allowed the Explorers to go into the break with a comfortable 38-26 lead.

But Nicholson came out hot in the second half and helped St. Bonaventure narrow the deficit to two points with just under ten minutes to play.  The Explorers then went on a 9-1 run of their own to put them back up by ten with just over five minutes left and they cruised home the rest of the way behind the hot hand of Tyreek Duren and an outstanding overall team defensive effort.  In particular, Ramon Galloway's ability to shut down the Bonnies point guards and the low post defensive efforts of Jerrell Wright, Devon White, and Steve Zack on the ultra-talented Nicholson were the difference in the game.

Duren led the Explorers with 21 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists while Pettis (16), Wright (10), and White (10) also scored in double figures.  Nicholson led St. Bonaventure with 19 points and 8 rebounds while Demetrius Conger added 18 points and 9 rebounds.

La Salle finishes the regular season with a 20-11 record overall and a 9-7 A10 record which allowed them to tie for fifth place.  With the loss, St. Bonaventure finishes the regular season with a 17-11 record overall and a 10-6 A10 record which allowed them to finish in a tie for third place.  With the tiebreakers, La Salle will be seeded seventh in the A10 tournament and will face tenth-seeded Richmond at Gola Arena on Tuesday night.  St. Bonaventure was awarded the fourth seed and will get a first-round bye and proceed direct to Atlantic City for a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday afternoon.