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.

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