Andrew Albert (@andrewjalbert01)
La Salle could not overcome the foul trouble of their forwards, and poor shooting in the second half on Wednesday night in Miami, as the Explorers fell to the Hurricanes 76-59.
The Explorers did not shoot the ball well, especially in the second half. The team combined to shoot just 11-for-34 (32.4 percent) from the floor, including 1-for-8 (12.5 percent) from beyond the arc in the second half. La Salle made just 16 baskets from inside the 3-point arc for the game.
“We could have stayed in the game if our defense was better, and that is where I am most disappointed,” La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini said. “It was team-wide, and we had problems on and off the ball. I am really surprised I think our lack of offensive success got us a little frustrated and affected our effort defensively.”
Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack were both in foul trouble for much of the game. Both big men picked up four fouls with more than 12 minutes remaining in the game, forcing La Salle to sit both and go with a five guard, no forward lineup. Ramon Galloway (6-foot-3) was the biggest man on the floor for a stretch, and had to try to contain the likes of Miami’s Kenny Kadji (6-foot-11) and Julian Gamble (6-foot-10).
The focus on the big men made the Explorers guards have to help out on the big men of Miami, opening up the lanes for the Hurricanes guards. Shane Larkin had the number of the La Salle defense, as he racked up 10 points in just three minutes during a 14-2 run midway through the second half. He finished tied for a team high with 18 points for the night. Durand Scott also had 18 points for Miami.
“We tried to do what we are taught every day, and when you get beat off the dribble and nobody is there and they lay it up, you have done nothing you have been taught,” Giannini said. “We had guys get out of the way of charges, we had guys be nowhere near where they are supposed to be in help position, we had guys just get blown by on the ball like they weren’t there. We had massive problems defensively.”
The U opened up the second half on a 10-2 run to regain the lead with 16:49 remaining in the game. Miami played tighter perimeter defense to open the half, forcing La Salle to go underneath to foul ridden Zack and Wright. The Hurricanes shot the ball well in the second half due to this, managing to shoot 56 percent in the second half on 14-of-25 shooting. Miami ended the game with a total shooting percentage of 47.1 percent (24-for-51).
“Coach delivered the message (at halftime) and we displayed it,” Scott said of the second half. “The first half, they came at us, and they had the upper hand and we had to show our toughness by going back at them. In the first half we didn’t play to our potential, but in the second half coach delivered the message, and we did exactly that.”
That message was to attack the basket and be more aggressive offensively and defensively. The Hurricanes did exactly that, as they outscored the Explorers 46-23 in the second half of play. La Salle has given up at least 40 points in a half in each of their three losses to date.
“I couldn’t possibly be more disappointed in our defense in the last 11 minutes of that game,” Giannini said. “We didn’t guard the ball, we didn’t help, we really didn’t do much of anything well defensively in the last 11 minutes. Hopefully we take it to heart, and we do better in the future.”
La Salle had a noticeable disadvantage on the boards, due to the foul trouble of their big men. The Hurricanes outrebounded the Explorers 40 to 33 with Kadji collecting 11 of those rebounds. Kadji also contributed 14 points for the Hurricanes.
“We had a bunch of guys chipping in on the boards,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “It was a great team effort against a great La Salle team. We haven’t been a great rebound team, and without Reggie Johnson, who is our best rebounder on both ends of the court, it is going to have to be a team effort.”
Wright, who played just 20 minutes in the game, had just six points and four rebounds in a game where he fouled out. Wright managed just five minutes in the second half of play. Zack managed eight points and eight rebounds in just 16 minutes of action.
Tyrone Garland was the only Explorer to have success from the floor in the second half. He contributed 20 points on the night, 14 of which came in the second half. Galloway did not score in the second half after leading the Explorers with 12 points in the first half. He did contribute seven rebounds and four assists in the losing effort.
“You have to give them some credit defensively,” Giannini said. “We missed some shots, but my problem was with our defense. We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we didn’t have a ton of turnovers, through we might have had some untimely ones. We got shots, and we didn’t make them. We don’t rely on Ramon or anyone to be our leading scorer, it’s just whoever is the open man, and Ramon didn’t get as many open looks (in the second half), and that is partly a credit to their defense.”
La Salle used a 12-0 run spanning just over three minutes towards the end of the half to break open an eleven point lead. Galloway spearheaded the attack, nailing deep shots from beyond the arc to pace the Explorers. He had four shots from distance to lead La Salle in the first 20 minutes. The Explorers led 36-30 at the end of the first half.
“I thought La Salle came out of the blocks very fast, pressuring us, attacking us, defensively, offensively, and it took us quite a while to respond. We dug ourselves a hole,” Larranaga said.
The Explorers, including Galloway used accurate shooting from downtown to keep them afloat in the first half. They shot 50 percent (6-for-12) from distance. They managed just 42.9 percent (12-for-28) total in the first half.
Miami struggled shooting the ball in the first half, making just 10 of their 26 field goal attempts (38.4%). They were just 3-for-8 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes, good for 37.5 percent. The Hurricanes were led by Trey McKinney Jones, who had eight points and three rebounds in the first half.
Sam Mills could not get back on the right track playing in his hometown of Miami, as he struggled shooting the ball from the field. He ended the night with just 2 points on 0-of-7 shooting from the floor, including 0-for-4 from beyond the arc.
La Salle returns to Tom Gola Arena on Saturday January 5 to take on Big 5 opponent Penn. Game time is set for 2 p.m.