By Andrew Kramer
PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) – First, nobody was sure if they would even get in their first NCAA Tournament since 1992. Then, the question became whether or not they can advance past the “First Four.” After they did that, people wondered how they would ever find a way to defeat No. 4 Kansas State, in Kansas City nonetheless.
But the La Salle Explorers (23-9) beat K-State 63-61 on Friday and have found a way to get past all the obstacles so far in the tournament, proving any doubters wrong. Despite advancing to the third round, however, many are still questioning if their Cinderella season will continue.
“Coming off two big wins for us against Boise State and Kansas State, we definitely have momentum,” Explorer’s guard Sam Mills said. “We just have to play like the team we are and play with the top teams in the nation.”
Next up for La Salle is the 12th-seeded Mississippi Rebels on Sunday. Ole Miss (27-8) had an upset victory of their own Friday, beating No. 5 Wisconsin 57-46, behind the hot second-half shooting of guard Marshall Henderson. Henderson has received plenty of attention recently, not just for his offensive abilities, but also for his flamboyant personality.
Ramon Galloway, La Salle’s high-energy senior guard, will probably draw the assignment to fight through the ball screens and guard Henderson.
“He’s going to take his shots,” Galloway said. “My thing is just making sure to contest every shot. Not to give him anything easy. But I’m not going to get caught up in the Ramon Galloway and the Henderson show. It’s about La Salle and Ole Miss.”
The Explorers know, though, Henderson is not the only threat on the Rebel’s offense.
“They have a good team,” Explorer’s guard Tyrone Garland said. “We just can’t let (Henderson) go off, and get caught up in all the hype. They have a big man who is really good. That’s who we are really worried about, their big man. But, they have to guard us too. We just need to make sure we do what we did (Friday) – be tough on the boards and be tough on defense.”
Another challenge La Salle faces is this will be their third game in five days. Even though his players are young and eager, coach Dr. John Giannini admits fatigue is a concern.
“I’m always concerned about being fresh,” he said. “If someone saw our public workout a couple of days ago, it was the most boring one ever because we really didn’t do anything. We did our preparation in a walk through in the hotel. I’m always concerned about being fresh, no question about it, especially right now.”
Garland and the other players, however, don’t seem to be as worried.
“With all the excitement, it should maintain our legs,” he said. “We should be fine. We felt a little fatigue (Friday). We couldn’t get a field goal in the second half, we only had three, so that says something. It was also Kansas State’s defense, which is good.”
La Salle has their work cut out for them Sunday, but that’s nothing new for this Explorer’s team, who will look to continue defying the odds and battle their way into the Sweet 16.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)