PHILADELPHIA, PA. 12/28/2015 – The La Salle Explorers trailed Rhode Island Rams by 15 points in the first half. The Explorers looked out of synch against the Rams who share first place in the Atlantic 10 conference. It appeared that URI who was playing good defense and making shots would get an easy victory. La Salle made it a difficult win cutting the deficit to one-point three times in the last six minutes. However, the Explorers could not come up with the key basket or the key defensive play and fell 59 – 56 at the Gola Arena. The Rams could not get separation either missing free throws down the stretch, but survived when a La Salle three-pointer at the buzzer was short. Explorers Coach Dr. John Giannini sees a positive in his team’s effort.
“I thought we played well in the second half,” said Giannini. “We were better defensively and we didn’t turn the ball over. We were a shot or two away from being able to win the game. I feel like that second half was something that we can build on. If we play the way we did in the second half the next three weeks, we can win games.”
Rhode Island had a 12 point halftime lead going into the locker room with a 36 – 24 advantage. The Rams appeared to be holding the lead halfway trough the latter stanza. The Explorers began their comeback by getting the ball inside as forwards Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright found open spaces to each other inside the Rams defense. It seemed to settle the La Salle offense and the defense became more intense.
“It was very effective,” Wright said about the inside play. “If they doubled, I knew Steve would be wide open. “We had been working on this at practice, to look for each other.”
A 13 – 4 run brought the Explorers to within 53 – 52 at the 6:15 mark, but could not gain a tie or the lead. A telling statistic for La Salle was at the free throw line where they made 13 of 25 from the charity stripe.
Wright scored a game-high 23 points and added 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Zack had 13 points and 4 assists to go along with 8 rebounds.
“Jerrell carried us offensively,” Giannini said. “He was awfully good and gave us a chance to win.”
Guard E.C. Matthews led the Rams with 21 points and fellow guard T.J. Buchanan contributed 12 points.
“We had a chance in the second half to create some separation,” said Rhode Island Coach Dan Hurley. “The best that could happen was for us to survive, to win a close game where we had to make plays in the last five minutes to secure our sixth road conference win of the season.”
The Explorers sit in ninth place in the Atlantic 10 with a 7 – 9 record. Overall, La Salle is 15 – 14. Their next outing is Wednesday at cross-town rival Saint Joseph’s before closing out the regular season at home against Dayton.
Written By: Glenn Papazian