Here are three things we learned from No. 13 La Salle’s 76-74 victory over 12th-seeded Mississippi on Sunday night (West region):
1. Think the good people at VCU are worrying about their
school’s claim to fame?
In 2011, the
inaugural year for the NCAA tournament’s First Four round — where eight
teams vie for four spots in the 64-team NCAA field, through a two-pack
of Tuesday/Wednesday games in Dayton, Ohio — VCU shocked everyone by
advancing from Dayton … all the way to the Final Four in Houston
(eventually losing to Butler in the national
VCU’s rise to glory was the best possible
occurrence for the NCAA selection committee, bringing instant legitimacy
to the First Four system. That aside, it still felt like a
once-in-generation event, as 11-seeds and 16-seeds typically incur
arduous roads to the Sweet 16 and Final Four.
here comes LaSalle, a program that hadn’t been to the Big Dance in 21
years, beating Boise State in Dayton, shocking Kansas State in Kansas
City and then slipping past Ole Miss on Sunday — thanks to backup guard
Tyrone Garland’s game-winning layup with 2.5 seconds left, busting a
Sure, the Explorers still must navigate
their way through the West Regional (Wichita State, Ohio State,
Arizona), but they’re more than halfway home to achieving a
once-unfathomable feat of becoming the second team in First Four history
to reach the Final Four.
2. LaSalle’s Ramon Galloway has been quite the enigma of late
On the bright side of this stanza, Galloway notched a game-high 24 points for the Explorers, on 8 of 13 shooting from the field. It was also his fourth game of 19 or more points since March 6.
On the down side, Galloway went the final 11 minutes of Sunday’s close-shave win over Ole Miss without scoring, an extra-long drought that nearly harpooned the Explorers’ chances of victory. Luckily, Sam Mills (3-pointer), Jerrell Wright (two points), Tyreek Duren (five points) and Tyrone Garland (game-winning bucket) picked up the scoring slack in the final 4:01.
Bottom line: Against Wichita State, a savvy, athletic club with seasonal wins over VCU, Creighton, Iowa, DePaul, Pittsburgh and Gonzaga (Saturday night’s major upset), Galloway simply cannot disappear for long stretches, especially with the game on the line.
3. There are equal positives and negatives to lament regarding Marshall Henderson
The shallow box-score reader will congratulate Henderson for collecting a team-high 21 points against La Salle, even though he buried just 4 of 15 three-pointers — for a wretched 26 percent. Inside the arc, Henderson was noticeably more efficient, hitting 4 of six shots from reasonable range.
In turn, the other four Rebels starters — Murphy Holloway (14 points, 13 rebounds), Jarvis Summers (12 points, six assists), Nick Williams (10 points), Reginald Buckner (seven points, six rebounds) — combined for 18 of 32 shooting from the field, for a 56-percent clip.
In Henderson’s defense, he wasn’t jacking up crazy shots — in bunches, at least — against the Explorers, a commendable stance for a high-stakes, high-pressure game that included a Sweet 16 party invite to the winner.
Henderson connected on a pair of big shots in the second half, nailing a 23-footer to extend the Rebels’ lead to 59-55. A few minutes later, his 20-footer broke a 62-all tie and seemingly put Ole Miss in control of the game.
But the rainbow jumpers and late leads were short-lived in the end, as La Salle finished with a 12-5 flurry. That was the difference.