Wright helps La Salle edge Dayton at home, 72-70

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Jerrell Wright led the Explorers past Dayton Wednesday night, (Photo: Anson Marsh)

Jerrell Wright led the Explorers past Dayton Wednesday night, (Photo: Anson Marsh)

Andrew Albert (@andrewjalbert01)

When a forward is all alone on a fast break, and slams home a monster dunk, you can expect that they will have a lot of confidence for the remainder of the game.

Jerrell Wright found himself in this situation, and showed a plethora of confidence for the remainder of the game. The sophomore forward led La Salle, especially down the stretch of the Explorers 72-70 win over Dayton. He scored 16 points, and collected five rebounds to lead La Salle to their second straight victory.

“You could tell he was confident,” La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini said. “You could just tell he was confident. He had those two and-ones that were gigantic plays, and it was just working.”

“Coach told me when I get the ball inside to score, be relentless, whatever I do just make a strong move,” Wright said. “If I don’t have it, just pass out to the guards, go screen for the guards, go down to the block and look for the ball. If I do have it, just score.”

Score on the blocks is exactly what Wright did, especially in the crucial late minutes of the game. Wright had two consecutive and one conversions to help put the Explorers (12-4, 2-1 A10) ahead late in the game. He was extremely efficient, going 7-for-10 from the field, and 2-for-2 from the foul line.

“I thought though a flurry of plays from about nine minutes down, seven minutes down, five minutes down, they just threw the ball to Jerrell Wright, and he did a tremendous job of getting them baskets,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “When we were up two, or up three or up one, he always got them back with an and-one or a big bucket.”

Tyreek Duren eclipsed the 1,000 career points mark midway through the first half. The junior is the 51st person in La Salle history to score more than 1,000 points. Duren wasn’t done there.

Duren hit key shots down the stretch of the game to keep the Explorers in it when they went dry from the field, including a fast-break layup with a minute remaining to push the La Salle lead to four. He finished the game with 14 points, 3 rebounds and 6 steals.

“Everybody told me that I only needed two points, and I wasn’t really worried about getting it,” Duren said of the quest for 1,000 points. “I knew it was going to come within the flow of the game. I wasn’t really nervous, I just wanted to focus on winning the game.”

Ramon Galloway was the leading scorer for the Explorers with 18 points. He was 6-for-10 shooting, and made all four of his free throw attempts on the night, including a pair with just seconds remaining.

Dayton (10-7, 0-3 A10) had a chance to tie or take the lead on the final possession, but a running jumper by Kevin Dillard hit off the back iron and fell no good to seal the victory for the Explorers.

Dillard, Dayton’s leading scorer, was held scoreless in the first half of play. He was anything from scoreless in the second 20 minutes of action. The Atlantic 10 preseason first team selection went off for 12 points (all 3-point shots) in the second half to lead the Flyers.

“I thought in the second half he was much better,” Miller said of Dillard. “He looked for his shot a lot more, and he tried to make a lot more plays. At the end of the day, he is going through a hard time personally. He is struggling with the losing, and that is what great competitors do.

The Flyers received good games from both Vee Sanford, and Dyshawn Pierre, who combined to score 26 points on the night. They both contributed 13 points in a losing effort.

The Flyers, who came into the game shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc, which ranked them second in the Atlantic 10, buried seven of their 15 attempts from deep(46.7 percent). They were especially hot in the second half, as they went 5-for-8 in the second 20 minutes of play.

Midway through the first half, the Explorers had a stretch that included four steals, which led to four highlight reel dunks, three by Galloway and one by Wright, that got the crowd back into the game. After a Dayton timeout, Galloway hit a shot from beyond the arc to give the Explorers their first lead of the game at 16-13. The Explorers and the Flyers would jockey back and forth for the lead in the first half, with La Salle coming out on top 35-33 at the half.

“I think it all comes from our defense,” Duren said of the dunks. “That could be every game. Like G told us in practice, they were going to run plays, and we could shoot the gaps, get steals, and get easy fast breaks. That’s exactly what we did when we started playing our defense. I think we came out a little lackadaisical in the beginning, and as soon as we turned it up and got focused, thats when the dunks started happening.”

Both teams shot the ball well in the first 20 minutes of play. Dayton held the slight advantage, going 12-for-24 from the field (50 percent), but shot just 2-of-7 from beyond the arc (28.6 percent). They were led by the tandem of Pierre and Sanford, who both scored eight points in the first half. Pierre, who is a freshman, also pulled down four rebounds in the opening 20 minutes.

La Salle had a solid shooting performance in the first half from inside of the 3-point arc. They were 13-of-23 on their 2-point field goal attempts (56.5 perent). They struggles from beyond the arc, managing to make just one of their six attempts (16.7 percent). The Explorers were led by Galloway in the first half, who accumulated 11 points in the half, on the lone shot from downtown and four dunks.

The first half was sloppy for both teams, as they combined to turn the ball over 24 times in the opening 20 minutes. La Salle, who only turns the ball over 11.4 times per game on average, had 10 in the first half. Dayton turns the ball over 14.8 times per game, yet managed to just about reach that mark in the first half alone, as they gave away the ball 14 times.

DJ Peterson got another start in this game, but he was ineffective throughout. He did not score in the game, going 0-for-3 from the field.

The Explorers were out-rebounded once again Wednesday night, and it was not close. La Salle managed to collect  21rebounds to Dayton’s 35 on the night.

The Explorers will now travel to Cincinnati to take on Xavier on January 19. The game is at 2 p.m. and will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

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