Meet the Atlantic 10: La Salle Preview

Posted In News - By Alan Kelly On Thursday, March 6th, 2014 With 0 Comments


Tonight at 8pm, George Mason (10-18, 3-11) plays its final road game of the regular season in Philadelphia, against La Salle (14-14, 6-8). The Explorers are the last remaining Atlantic 10 team which the Patriots have never previously faced. The game, which will be Senior Night for La Salle, will be televised on NBCSN and streamed online via NBCSports.com and the Live Extra app.

A year removed from a memorable run to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen as a 13-seed, the Explorers have endured an up and down season, winning their last two contests after a five-game losing streak that dropped them from the top half of the league. La Salle will be looking to gain some momentum in advance of next week’s Atlantic 10 tournament.

To complete our introduction to the other twelve Atlantic 10 member institutions, I asked Joe Fedorowicz (@JoeFedorowicz) from Philahoops.com to answer some questions about the Explorers.

masonhoops.com: Who’s in the expected starting lineup, and can you tell us about each starter’s role on the team? How has the team adapted since the graduation of Ramon Galloway, last year’s leader?

Joe: You should expect Tyreek Duren, Sam Mills, Tyrone Garland, Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright to round out the starting lineup. Garland sometimes is substituted for DJ Peterson when height is an issue. The lack of Galloway has been an issue for this team, both on the court and off. His leadership in the locker room and amongst the team was great and he was an “it” guy. The fact that he was a 40+-percent three point shooter and could throw it down at any time didn’t hurt.

masonhoops.com: Who are the key bench players, and what do they contribute to the team?

Joe: The bench is thin. In the backcourt, you’ll see Peterson / Garland as the first off the bench, while Khalid Lewis, a transfer from Delaware, might also see a few ticks. The only answer in the front court is Rohan Brown, an undersized, but deceivingly strong forward that is a hustle guy.

masonhoops.com: What are the strengths of this year’s Explorers team?

Joe: The strengths of this team are on the shoulders of their best players. Tyreek Duren is, in my opinion, on par with Chaz Williams in terms of production in the A10. Zack is a walking double-double and Jerrell Wright, when given space, is unstoppable around the rim. If he can stay on the floor, this Explorers team is dangerous.

masonhoops.com: What are the weaknesses of this year’s Explorers team?

Joe: Consistency. La Salle has gone through shooting slumps this season that are some of the worst in the country. Garland, who is not shy to shoot the ball, has a field goal percentage that rivals MLB batting averages. Sam Mills started the season great, but went through a stretch where he didn’t score. When La Salle is shooting well, they are a dangerous team (as evidenced by the VCU and St. Louis games), but they have not been able to string it together.

masonhoops.com: Are there any key statistics or trends we could watch for on Thursday night, that might indicate whether the game is going well or poorly for La Salle?

Joe: Three point shooting and Jerrell Wright’s foul count. If the Explorers shoot 40-percent from three, I think they’ll win. If Jerrell Wright can play 30+ minutes (he played 40 minutes against Fordham), things are going well for La Salle.

masonhoops.com: With nearly the entire roster (except Galloway) returning from a 24-10 Sweet Sixteen season, La Salle was picked third in the preseason coaches’ poll, but has disappointed recently. The Explorers sit at 14-14 overall and 6-8 in the league (eighth place) even after 2 straight wins. Can the Explorers turn things around and make a deep run in Brooklyn?

Joe:If La Salle can play like they did against VCU and Saint Louis (with an extra break here or there), then yes, they could run through and even win the A10. Will they? Nothing they have done this year has shown they can do that four days in a row.

masonhoops.com: La Salle University was named for a 17th century French priest, Jean-Baptiste de La Salle (the Roman Catholic patron saint of teachers), and not for his contemporary, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the famous French-Canadian explorer of North America. Yet, La Salle’s nickname is the Explorers. How did that happen?

Joe: The story is that a Philadelphia sportswriter thought that La Salle was named after the Explorer and wrote as such, hence the nickname. Whether that is true or not is sometimes in question.

masonhoops.com: Younger fans may not know this, but La Salle won the 1952 NIT championship (back when the NIT meant something) and 1954 NCAA championship. The star of those teams, Tom Gola, passed away in January at the age of 81. What did Tom Gola mean to La Salle fans?

Joe: Tom Gola is a god amongst La Salle fans. His name is on the building, he holds NCAA records that will never be broken and he was an idol for a few generations. My grandfather’s brother actually played on the NCAA champ team and regards him as just being better than everybody else back then. He had been in failing health for almost a decade, so the death was no surprise. Still, his legacy will live on forever in La Salle lore and I doubt his rebounding record will ever be eclipsed.

masonhoops.com: Thanks, Joe! It sounds like La Salle has a lot in common with Mason in terms of inconsistency.

LA SALLE EXPLORERS FACTS
Institution
Founded: 1863
Type: Private (Catholic)
Endowment: $71.7M
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Campus: Urban
Students: 4,773 undergraduates
Men’s Basketball Program
Athletics Budget: $12.9M (2012)
Men’s Basketball Budget: $2.0M (2012)
Began Play: 1931
Joined A-10: 1995
A-10 Championships: None
NCAA Appearances: 12 (Most recent: 2013)
NCAA Record: 14-11 (.560)
NIT Appearances: 12 (Most recent: 2012)
Head Coach: Dr. John Giannini
Coaching Tenure: 9th season
Coaching Record: 157-152 (.508)
Arena: Tom Gola Arena
Arena Opened: 1998
Arena Capacity: 3,400
Colors: Blue and Gold
Mascot: The Explorer
Student Section: Explorer Entourage
2013-14 Season
Preseason A-10: Picked 3rd
Current Record: 14-14 (6-8)
RPI: 88
Pomeroy: 111
Top wins: vs GW, vs Temple, vs St. Bonaventure
Bad losses: at Miami, at Penn St
George Mason Series History
Meetings: None
Record: N/A
Current Streak: N/A
Most Recently: N/A

Meet the Atlantic 10: An introduction to each team in George Mason’s new conference
VCUSt. Joe’sUMassURIFordhamGWSLUDaytonDuq.St. BonaRich.La Salle

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About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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