What: La Salle vs. UMass
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Tom Gola Arena
TV/Radio: None / 990 AM
In four days, the Explorers managed to do what no La Salle team had done in over half a century, knocking off two nationally-ranked teams within the same week—Butler and VCU.
“We beat two really great teams and we couldn’t be more happy,” La Salle Head Coach John Giannini said. “That being said, we think there’s a lot of great teams in this league that can present the same challenges we saw against Butler and VCU.”
Senior guard Ramon Galloway led the way through the tough week for the Explorers, garnering Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors in the process. Galloway hit the game-winning layup in La Salle’s thrilling 54-53 win over 9th-ranked Butler last Wednesday. He followed those heroics with a 31-point performance against 19th-ranked VCU in the Explorers’ 69-61 road win.
“I thought the best thing about his stat line against VCU was two turnovers,” Giannini explained. “It showed that he was not only aggressive and successful, but he was under control and played a huge in us winning the game by beating VCU’s pressure.”
Following the program’s most successful week since 1951, the Explorers find themselves in a familiar spot: near the top of the Atlantic 10 standings as the conference season approaches the halfway point. The Explorers were in the same position with many of the same players last year. They ended the season in a tie for fifth at 9-7 in the A-10.
“I feel very similar to where we were last year,” Giannini said. “We were 6-2 and in first place in the Atlantic 10 halfway through the season. We’ve had success before and then we turned around and went 3-5 the rest of the way. It changes perception a lot and puts you in position to do really great things. But there’s so much left, it’s ridiculous.”
After knocking off the A-10’s two top dogs in the span of four days, the hunter will soon become the hunted. The first team to take aim at the Explorers since their big week will be the visiting UMass Minutemen.
Massachusetts (13-5, 3-2 in the A-10) has been led this year by the super-explosive Chaz Williams at guard. Williams leads the team in both points and assists, scoring 16.4 points per game and dishing out 7.2 assists per game. His assist average is not only tops in the Atlantic 10, but it is also sixth-best in the country. The Minutemen enter off a 70-65 win over Richmond.
Though they’ve defeated the two top teams in the conference and played two others who are tied with them for second in the standings, the Explorers still have a brutal slate ahead with the remainder of the Atlantic 10 schedule. Massachusetts and George Washington—Saturday’s opponent—each have winning records in league play thus far.
“I think that there’s as many potential NCAA Tournament teams in the A-10 as any conference in the country,” Giannini said. “The reason I say that at this time is that we beat two great teams, but we know we have so many tough teams left on our schedule. It’s not a time to reflect, it’s a time to look forward.”
Scouting La Salle: Ramon Galloway’s 31 points Saturday were a career high. He was 9-18 from the floor and 9-10 from the foul line…. Saturday’s game with VCU featured the two best Atlantic 10 teams in terms of turnover margin. The Rams turned the ball over 12 times, while the Explorers turned it over 14 times…. Tyreek Duren was the only other player in double figures Saturday, scoring 16 points. Half of those points came from the free throw line…. Sam Mills scored only six points against VCU. In the Explorers’ last 13 games, he has only topped double digits once.
Scouting UMass: The Minutemen have three opponents in common with La Salle thus far this year. Both teams are 3-0 against Richmond, Siena, and Northeastern. UMass beat those three by an average of four points. La Salle beat those three by an average of 14 points…. Last year the Explorers knocked off the Minutemen twice during the regular season—by seven at home and by one on the road…. UMass has not won at Tom Gola Arena since January 6, 2007, when they beat La Salle 79-71. They have played La Salle four times in Philadelphia since then…. The Minutemen are third in the Atlantic 10 in points per game, with 72.8.
Sound off: Will the Explorers avoid a letdown following last week’s big wins?
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