Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Just the second of the so-called First Four
teams to make it to the Sweet 16, the La Salle Explorers seek their fourth win
of the 2013 NCAA Tournament when they take the floor against the Wichita State
Shockers in the West Regional Semifinals at Staples Center on Thursday night.
La Salle, which joined VCU's 2011 squad as the only other program to start
from such humble beginnings in the tourney and then make it this far, would
certainly be the top story among the remaining teams in the event if not for
the fact that Florida Gulf Coast is the first No. 15 seed ever to make it this
far. The 13th seed, the Explorers toppled Boise State in the first round of
the tournament on March 20 by a score of 80-71 in Dayton before moving on to
The site of La Salle's first and only national title back in 1954 when the
Explorers dismissed Bradley (92-76), Kansas City was again good to La Salle as
the team first defeated Kansas State by a basket in the second round, 63-61,
and then picked up another two-point victory versus Ole Miss on Sunday in
order to advance.
As for the ninth-seeded Shockers, they like La Salle earned an at-large bid
for the tourney and have also scored a pair of upsets in order to move to an
even 10-10 in this event over the years. The trip to the round of 16 began
with an impressive 73-55 romp over Pittsburgh, and then continued with a 76-70
victory versus top-seeded and top-ranked Gonzaga which by some estimations was
not so much of an upset.
The Shockers, who played in the shadow of Creighton for much of the regular
season in the Missouri Valley Conference yet are still standing after the
Bluejays fell to Duke over the weekend in the third round, won the only
previous meeting between these two programs back in 2003 during the Paradise
Jam, albeit by a narrow 74-71 final.
The winner of this contest heads to the Elite Eight where it will contend
against the survivor of the Arizona/Ohio State matchup for the right to
advance to the Final Four in Atlanta.
Operating with a four-guard offense, La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini may
have put his team at a disadvantage on the glass, but in the end his squad
still had more than enough fight in them to score the two-point win against
the Rebels, thanks to what has been dubbed the 'Southwest Philly floater'.
Tyrone Garland, who stands just 6-1, swept his way from the left side of the
lane over to the right and scooped in what became the game-winning shot beyond
the reach of Ole Miss center Reginald Buckner who stands 6-9 and thus one of
the most important baskets in La Salle history was given life, and a name.
For Garland, who shot just 1-of-8 from the floor in the win against Kansas
State, the basket was the highlight of his 17-point effort, trailing only
Ramon Galloway and Tyreek Duren who registered 24 and 19 points, respectively.
The Explorers lost the rebounding battle, 40-30, but managed to shut down the
Rebels beyond the arc as Ole Miss made good on only 4-of-19 attempts.
On a team that is generating 72.5 ppg this season, Galloway heads the list of
individual scorers with his 17.4 ppg, racking up 92 3-pointers along the way
while also finding his teammates for 124 assists. Duren checks in with 14.4
ppg and another 107 dishes which helps to take some of the load off Galloway.
Garland (13.0 ppg) and Jerrell Wright (10.7 ppg) also lend a hand on offense,
the latter responsible for a team-best 6.8 rpg.
Wichita State's defense went right after the Bulldogs last Saturday night,
holding Gonzaga to a mere nine made field goals in the first half and 3-of-12
shooting beyond the arc in the frame. While the Zags were able to bounce back
in the second half and even take a 49-41 lead with the aid of a 12-0 run, but
WSU then closed the meeting with a 35-21 scoring advantage to send the
Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early both dropped in 16 points for the Shockers, the
latter clearing seven boards and the former six rebounds to go with four
assists. Fred VanVleet came off the bench to add 13 points and three dishes in
his 20 minutes of action to make up for Malcolm Armstead who shot just 2-of-9
from the floor and tallied eight points.
Even though he has been coming off the bench of late, Early is still the
leading scorer for the Shockers with his 13.9 ppg, discovering a large portion
of his points at the free-throw line where he is close to 80 percent accurate.
Carl Hall checks in with 12.6 ppg and is first on the glass with almost seven
rebounds per game, which explains his reluctance to from shooting 3-point
range, while Armstead (10.6 ppg) is actually the most accomplished perimeter
shooter for the program with 57 conversions, not to mention being tops with
143 assists at the same time.
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