It was a little chilly in Madison Square Garden with ice underneath the court for the Rangers game and explorer fans few and far between. The cold air seemed to “freeze” La Salle’s offense at times, but in a surprising second half the Explorers pulled ahead and beat the Seawolves 65-57.
“We won with our defense and our big guys playing well,” said Coach Dr. John Giannini.
The first half began with Tyreek Duren nailing a three in the first three minutes.
After that not nothing much seemed to work well for the Explorers, besides Steve Zack driving up underneath the hoop. Zack would finish with his third double-double in four games with 11 points and ten rebounds. The remaining twenty minutes of the first half were characterized by miss after miss. The Explorers shot 26.7 percent with a dismal 15.4 percent on threes. Forward D.J Peterson shot 0-4 aiming low on most of his shots.
At the half the Explorers trailed 22-31. The last time La Salle scored 22 points in the first half was during the Sweet 16 loss to Wichita State; obviously this game ended with a different result.
During the second half things started to heat up for the Explorers as the offense did a complete 180 as La Salle went on a 24-10 drive and the seawolves started missing shots. La Salle took their first lead of the game (42-41) with nine minutes left on the clock. Jerrell Wright became hungry in the second half; he made an athletic play with a roundhouse shot that went in before sliding to the ground. Wright finished with a career high of 21 points.
In response to his play in the second half, Wright said that Giannini told him to stay aggressive and take the big men.
For Zack his big challenge was going up against Stony Brooks 6’8 Jameel Warney.
“Warney won the first half, but I was blocking him in the second,” said Zack.
Warney was the lead scorer for the Seawolves with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Peterson did recover from his slow start and drained six points, making a key three-pointer with seven to go in the second half.
Gianni started Garland over Peterson in second half because he was unsure if the team was going to score. Giannini admitted some of his players are in a shooting “funk.” Giannini is using a new way to practice and changing substitution pattern to turn things around.
Despite twitter allegations that Duren had a stress fracture in his foot he showed no signs of discomfort. The senior finished with eight points, four rebounds and three assists. Giannini confirmed that Duren has plantar fasciitas but should continue to play. Giannini is hoping the break for finals week will allow some of his players to recover.
The win over Stony Brook brings La Salle’s record to 5-4.
“I’m not surprised, I’m really disappointed,” said Giannini. The coach elaborated that although they have played some really good teams, the team has not been playing as well as he would’ve hoped, but he is opptomomistic things will continue to get better. “We’re n0t going with the status quo.”
For many players this was their first time playing in “The world’s most famous arena.”
“I was in amazement,” said Zack, “It’s really nice.”
As for Giannini he enjoyed playing in MSG. “As a product of the seventies I was really excited to play in the garden.”
After a week off La Salle will play Big 5 rivalry Villanova next Sunday Dec. 15. The tip off against the Wildcats is at 2:30 p.m.