By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After a 72-62 win over Rhode Island on Wednesday night, the La Salle Explorers find themselves on a four-game winning streak. That has improved their record to 10-6 overall and they are a perfect 3-0 in the Atlantic 10.
Junior forward Jerrell Wright had 14 points and 10 rebounds in the victory, while junior center Steve Zack put together his ninth double-double of the season with an 11-point, 10-rebound performance. That is production that is becoming commonplace at Gola Arena for these two front court standouts.
Wright is third on the team in scoring, averaging 12.8 points a game while shooting 59% from the field, and he is second, behind Zack, in rebounding, pulling down 6.3 boards a game.
The Dobbins Tech product has been a starter since he arrived at La Salle, and he says he has made great strides in a lot of areas over the past three years.
“My defense, taking charges, rebounding,” Wright tells KYW Newsradio. “I’m trying to get my free throws up there. If I start making free throws (currently shooting 58% from the line), I think I’ll be complete. And using my right my hand more.”
Zack’s rebounding average is 9.4 and he is pouring in ten points a game. He also leads the team with 35 blocks. The 6’11”, New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, native enjoys playing next to a talented big like the 6’8″ Wright.
“Jerrell’s a monster,” Zack says. “As you saw (against Rhode Island), once he catches (the ball) two feet off the block or two feet in the paint, no one’s stopping him. I go high-low, if he’s there, throw it to him, if he gets doubled, he throws it to me. We’ve been playing together for three years now, so you’re really starting to see the chemistry.”
Wright and Zack were both key to La Salle’s success last season, as the Explorers advanced to the “Sweet 16” of the NCAA Tournament. However, Zack hurt his foot late in the regular season and was sidelined for the tournament run.
“That was one of the worst things that I experienced,” Zack says. “Because as a kid growing up, that’s all you do in March, you stay home from school to watch the tournament because it starts early in the day. That was the only time my mom let me skip school. Then you get hurt and go down with (two) games left in the regular season, you’ve got to watch the whole tournament. I kept asking to go to the doctor every day, ‘Can we go get an x-ray? Can we get an x-ray? Is it ready yet? Is it ready yet?’ So I think that was really my fuel for the off-season, to come back stronger, work on my agility, just get everything back and then come into this season and play as hard as I can so we can get back there.”
Wright is enjoying being a part of a group that has helped return the Explorers to the national conversation.
“It’s really fun,” Wright says. “It all starts with the fans, though. Everybody coming out and supporting. The coaches believing in the team, knowing that we can make a huge run (like) we did last year. Right now we’re just playing well. It’s mainly because of our defense.”
Wright, Zack and the rest of the Explorers return to the court on Saturday when they take on Temple at the Palestra.
You can follow Matt on twitter @mattleonkyw.