PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ramon Galloway went the length of the court for the winning basket with 2.7 seconds left to send La Salle to a 54-53 victory over No. 9 Butler on Wednesday night.
Fans stormed the court in a wild celebration for the biggest win for La Salle (13-5, 3-2 Atlantic 10) in 33 years. There was some confusion after Galloway’s basket and fans were ordered off the court. Butler had attempted a last-second heave that was way off the mark. Officials huddled with both coaches and they decided the final score stood. It was mayhem again as fans rushed the court for the second time in minutes.
Let them celebrate twice: La Salle hadn’t defeated a top 10 team since 1980.
Butler had lived on last-second victories this season, including a buzzer-beater Saturday against Gonzaga. Just not at La Salle.
Andrew Smith’s layup with 8 seconds left put Butler ahead 53-52 and it appeared the Bulldogs would survive another thriller.
Not so fast. Galloway took the inbounds pass and went all the way for the stunner that helped flood the court with delirious fans. La Salle last defeated an AP Top 25 team on March 3, 2001. against No. 18 Saint Joseph’s, 91-90. The last time La Salle defeated an AP top 10 team was on Jan. 30, 1980, against No. 8 Notre Dame, 62-60, according to STATS LLC.
La Salle’s Sam Mills hit a jumper with 32 seconds left to make it 52-51. But Mills missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to give Butler the ball with 10.9 seconds left. Smith gave Butler the short-lived lead.
Butler’s leading scorer Rotnei Clarke missed his third straight game with a severely sprained neck. No decision has yet been made about Saturday’s home game against Temple.
Clarke was hurt when he crashed head-first into a padded basket support at Dayton on Jan. 12.
But Clarke’s absence hadn’t slowed the surging Bulldogs until Wednesday. Butler had won 13 straight including Saturday’s buzzer-beater over then-No. 8 Gonzaga, 64-63. The streak has moved the Bulldogs into the top 10 for the first time since Feb. 18, 2008.
La Salle trailed by 10 points in the first half but never let the game get too far out of control.
Tyreek Duren hit a 3 to make it 38-35 and Mills made two from the free throw line to cut Butler’s lead to one. Duren drove the lane for the 41-40 lead and suddenly 3,400 fans sounded like 34,000. Tyrone Garland followed with a 3 that gave La Salle a four-point lead and put the upset only 7:40 away.
La Salle was once like Butler back when Tom Gola, a three-time All-America, led the program to consecutive trips to the NCAA championship game in 1954 and 1955. The Explorers won the 1954 national championship.
But the team wouldn’t remain among the elite and lean times hit the program for most of the last two decades. La Salle hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 1992 and last season’s NIT berth was its first since 1991.
For most of Wednesday night, the underwhelming decades didn’t matter. Gola Arena, pretty much a high school gym plopped on a city campus, was packed with 3,400 fans full of school spirit and thirsting for an upset. Yes, the Explorers were a 2½-point betting favorite, but the oddsmakers were the only ones who considered the Bulldogs an underdog.
Butler could not shake La Salle in the first half. Galloway dunked off a turnover to keep it a three-point deficit, and Garland and Duren buried consecutive 3-pointers to cut Butler’s lead to 28-23. Butler’s 52 percent shooting to La Salle’s 32 percent helped the Bulldogs lead 28-23 at halftime.
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