By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The La Salle Explorers are headed to Atlantic City after advancing to the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament with an 80-72 win over Richmond in the first round Tuesday night at Gola Arena.
The 21-11 Explorers got great play in the win from forwards Jerrell Wright and Devon White. Wright was 6 for 6 from the floor en route to his 14 points. White’s performance off the bench – which included 13 points – was a real boost to head coach Dr. John Giannini.
“He particularly gave a great effort, especially defensively, and he did a lot of the things we want,” Giannini tells KYW Newsradio. “He didn’t force offense, he focused on defense. And as a result he just trusted our guards to get him some easy shots and he went to the line a lot (9 of 11) and he ended up having a great game by letting things come to him and focusing on defense.”
Now the seventh-seeded Explorers get the second-seeded St. Louis Billikens in the quarterfinals. These two teams met at Gola Arena back on February 11th with St. Louis gutting out a 59-51 win. Giannini says the 24-6 Billikens are very good.
“Most people already have them in the NCAA Tournament so it could be a game that could really enhance our season, and our postseason opportunities, if we could win it. But they’re sound offensively and defensively. (Senior forward Brian) Conklin’s good inside, they have got lots of good guards, they are great defensively. So they are an outstanding team for a number of reasons.”
Listen to KYW’s Matt Leon’s interview with Dr. John Giannini:
That defense of the Billikens holds opponents to just 56.6 points a game. Giannini talks about what makes it possible.
“Number one, they are good fundamentally. They, I’m sure, all fall and spring work on their basic defensive principles. But then they tweak it to really focus on each team’s scouting report. They tend to play guys right, exactly the way they are suppose to be played. So they are well schooled, they do a great job with their scouting reports and most importantly they are just mentally strong and tough kids and they have good ability. So there is nothing defensively that they are lacking.”
La Salle and St. Louis will play their A-10 Tournament quarterfinal game at 6:30pm on Friday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.