Excitement is the word that described the energy in the Tom Gola this afternoon as the La Salle basketball team was ready to unveil their Sweet 16 banner and defeat the Manhattan Jaspers in their season opener.
La Salle had won their past five home openers, but after a close game that spilled into double overtime, the Explorers couldn’t make this number six. They lost to the Jaspers 90-99.
The game started out sloppy with both teams struggling offensively. Sam Mills finally drained the Explorers first three-pointer with eight minutes left in the half.
The Jaspers sharp shooting would bring the game to a tie at 27 a piece, just under four minutes. Tyreek Duren would then draw a foul causing La Salle to lead Manhattan 32-30 at half time. Tyreek Duren led the team with eight points.
The second half of the game was characterized by the Jaspers making shots and getting rebounds, while La Salle couldn’t maintain a consistent offense. This turned the game in favor of the Jaspers 70-60 with 4:22 to go.
Tyrone Garland preceded to make a jumper and draw a foul starting a comeback for the Explorers. Another three from Garland, a rebound from Jerrell Wright and free throws sunk by Mills left La Salle only down by three with 1:30 to go. Sharp shooting by Garland would tie the game at 73-73 calling for overtime.
Overtime began with a scoring battle between both teams. Free throws would put La Salle in the lead 80-77 with 1:23 left. A turnover by Mills gave the Jaspers the momentum they needed making it a one-point game 80-79, La Salle still in the lead.
With five seconds to go, Manhattan’s Rhamel Brown would break through La Salle’s defense, tie the game at 81-81, and send the game into its second overtime.
Duren started the second overtime by drawing a foul, pushing the Explorers to a 84-83 lead. Manhattan responded to La Salle’s shots by making their own. Foul trouble helped the Jaspers inch ahead, and with only seconds on the clock La Salle couldn’t make a comeback losing 90-99.
A major factor in this game was the Jaspers’ ability to rebound. They finished the game with 51 rebounds over La Salle’s 33. La Salle’s forwards struggled off the glass. Steve Zack finished the night with only six rebounds, and Wright had four.
“That difference is just incredibly glaring, and it shouldn’t be that big,” head coach Dr. John Giannini said.
Garland led the team with a season high of 28 points (7-for-20 FG, 2-for-6 3-PT, 12-for-14 FT). Duren added 17 points (4-for-14 FG, 1-for-5 3-PT, 8-for-11 FT), while dishing out 9 assists.
George Beamon led Manhattan with 24 points (6-for-20 FG, 3-for-11 3-PT, 9-for-9 FT) and 8 rebounds.
Coach Dr. John Giannini said he knew Manhattan was going to be a tough team and will have success this season.
The coach claimed he made a mistake in not planning to get the ball to Duren late in the game, instead of running their normal press break which didn’t have the results the he wanted.
“I really can’t believe I wasn’t emphatic about getting the ball to Tyreek,” said Giannini.
A whole season lays ahead for the Explorers, and this game was a part of the learning curve.
“I think we needed that lesson in how tiny the difference is between winning and losing,” said Giannini, ”I think this lesson is very valuable; I think we are going to play well moving forward.”
The Explorers return to the court tuesday morning, as they take on Quinnipiac at 9:00 a.m., as part of ESPN’s Sixth Annual Tip-Off Marathon.