Traveling up to Olean, NY, La Salle would face a dangerous team that had already beaten two Big Five squads in St. Joseph’s and Temple. The Explorers barely escaped, needing both overtime and solid play late to hold on for a 69-66 overtime win on Wednesday night.
“There is nothing negative I could say about this win,” La Salle coach John Giannini told Philahoops after the game. ”It was one of the guttiest wins I’ve ever had.”
The Explorers led by as many as six in the first half, thanks in large part to 13-point halftime efforts from Ramon Galloway and Tyrone Garland. La Salle continued their excellent deep shooting, going 7-14 from behind the arc in the first 20 minutes. While it was not the first half outburst that the Explorers had against Fordham, they seemed to have firm control of the game.
In the second half, turnovers plagued the Explorers and St. Bonaventure was able to erase two separate 11-point leads, taking a one-point lead in both cases. La Salle finished with 20 turnovers on the game, with Galloway and Tyreek Duren accounting for six apiece.
“St. Bonaventure played well,” Giannini said about the team’s turnovers. “But there is nothing I can say negative about this win.”
There was more to the story, however, as many of the Explorers players were playing either injured or sick, something in which they had just recovered after a long bye week and blowout win over Fordham.
“Tyreek was sick. Tyrone had health issues. Ramon had issues and Jerrell [Wright] had issues,” Giannini alluded, going through his entire depth chart. “We were physically hurting more than any game this season. We had four key guys nowhere near the top of their game.”
With the game tied at 59, Steve Zack was fouled after corralling an offensive rebound. He would sink the two shots, but the lead would be short lived as Eric Mosely would hit a short jumper.
With the shot clock unplugged and a timeout in his pocket, Giannini elected to let his team play and the ball would remain in Duren’s hands. The junior point guard had a uncharacteristically poor game, finishing with only seven points and no assists.
“Tyreek was sick to his stomach the whole game,” Giannini said of his normally resilient point guard. “He was really sick.”
Duren turned the ball over on that play, leading both of the broadcasters and others to wonder if the ball should have been in Galloway’s hands. With the failed possession, the game went into overtime with the two teams knotted at 61.
In overtime, the two teams went scoreless for 2:21 seconds before Zack would make just the front end of a one-and-one. Zack, who finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, played the lion’s share of big-man minutes at the end of the game. Zack’s defense was vital at points of the game, with the near seven-footer altering shots from smaller St. Bonaventure guards.
The two teams would exchange leads again as a layup by the Bonnies was quickly answered by a three-pointer from Duren, his only trey of the night. The very next play, Charlon Kloof would finish a desperation layup and with 90 seconds remaining, the score was tied again at 65.
On the next play, Duren would hit the second of his two free throws. St. Bonaventure, after calling timeout, missed a layup and was forced to foul Garland who sank both shots. With a three point lead, and little time on the clock, Giannini called his last timeout.
Some wondered if La Salle would foul with 13 seconds remaining and leading by three. The timeout gave Bonnies’ coach Mark Schmidt a chance to draw up a final play, but it also allowed Giannini the ability to make adjustments, putting DJ Peterson in the game.
Coming out of the timeout, St. Bonaventure worked the ball around, but could not get an open shot. Then, in what later looked to be phantom contact, Peterson was whistled for a foul as Eric Mosley was shooting a deep ball. There was confusion as to whether the sophomore guard was attempting to foul or not.
“No, the plan was not to foul,” Giannini confirmed after the game. “With such little time left, we certainly did not want to give them a chance to force a second overtime at that point.”
Mosley would miss his first two free throws and, with only two seconds remaining, made the third after attempting to miss. La Salle would get the ball down the court in a hurry, with Garland again fouled. Leading by two and after missing the first free throw, Garland too attempted to miss, but the ball banked in.
In a final desperation heave, Demetrius Conger actually had an excellent look at the basket. The shot was wide, however, and La Salle was able to hold on for the tough overtime victory.
Galloway would finish with 23 points and six rebounds, leading the Explorers. Garland added 16 points. For St. Bonaventure, Mosley finished with 15 points, Youssou added 14 and nine rebounds, Chris Johnson notched 11 points and Conger put in 10.
The Explorers will have a short turnaround before they face St. Joseph’s in a much-anticipated Big Five matchup at the Palestra on Saturday.
“We will take it a little easy on short turnarounds,” Giannini said about their workload with injured players. “We are going from a road to an afternoon game. We are going to be prepared, but we will not overwork ourselves.”