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With A-10 Bye Clinched, La Salle Focuses On St. Louis

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Matt Leon Matt Leon
Coming on board at KYW was a homecoming for Matt Leon. Born and raised...
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By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A very special season continued on Wednesday night for the La Salle Explorers as they beat George Washington 84-70 to improve to 21-7 on the season and also clinch a first-round bye in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.  La Salle will wrap up the regular season on Saturday when they visit #16 St. Louis.

The win on Wednesday night was made extra-special by the fact that it was senior night at Gola Arena.

“Senior nights are a very important night to me in the scope of college basketball,” La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini tells KYW Newsradio. “(Guard) Ramon Galloway’s done great things for our program, (center) Garvin Hunt was a great addition for our chemistry and our depth.  So to send them out with a win in their last game was an emotional thing.  Our kids played hard because they wanted to win for our season, but they also wanted to win for our seniors.”

Galloway provided the exclamation point on the night, finishing with a career high 29 points in the win.

Sitting at 21-7, with an 11-4 record in the A-10, the Explorers can still earn the top seed in the conference tournament in Brooklyn with a win on Saturday and a VCU loss to Temple on Sunday.  But they already have that first-round bye in their back pocket.

“I think the benefit (of the bye) is that you have to win three games as opposed to four for the tournament championship,” Giannini says.  “Obviously only one team in the league is going to win it.  And that’s going to be a very select team and a very hard thing to do.  But nonetheless, somebody’s going to do it and the three game route is a heck of a lot better than the four game route.  That’s what I really think the benefit is.  Four games is awfully tough and of course you get a little bit of a better seed, everyone in our league is a killer, but you won’t have to play a St. Louis or a VCU or a Temple right off the bat at least.”

But the Explorers will have to play St. Louis on Saturday.  The Billikens are having a great season, despite getting upset at Xavier on Wednesday.  They sit at 23-6 overall and 12-3 in the Atlantic 10.  It all starts with defense for St. Louis, as they allow just 58.5 points a game.

“They have great players,” Giannini says.  “Their guards are really strong and quick.  They have a lot of size and they just play tenaciously.  They refuse to get screened, they react to the ball with great timing.  When the ball moves, they move, everyone’s in the right spot.  They’re veteran, they’re quick, they’re big.  They fly around the court, they won’t get screened.  And all of those things make them as good as anyone in the country defensively.”

La Salle and St. Louis will tip-off at 1:30pm on Saturday.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.