It seemed like an average, run-of-the-mill win.
But with a quick glimpse at La Salles schedule and the realization of whats ahead, the Explorers 72-70 victory over Dayton Wednesday night suddenly took on much greater importance (see Instant Replay).
Although, to head coach John Giannini, a Wednesday night tilt with Dayton (10-7, 0-3 A-10) is just as pivotal to any day in the Atlantic 10.
Its huge, Giannini said. I could care less who we play next week, tonight, I could care less who we were playing Saturday I could care less. Were thrilled we got a hard-fought win and now well worry about Xavier.
And worry about a daunting three-game stretch that awaits.
How daunting? Well, Xavier welcomes La Salle to its home floor where the Musketeers are 49-1 in their last 50 A-10 matchups, while Butler and VCU are both nationally ranked and have won a combined 23 consecutive games.
Simply put, the following eight days is not a pretty sight on the La Salle calendar, but heading into it with a win and confidence? Not so bad.
Whoever you play in the A-10, at the end of the day it all evens out the same, Giannini said. It doesnt matter who you play when, you just got to win the next game.
La Salle (12-4, 2-1 A-10) did just that on Wednesday night and it wasnt without excitement.
A lukewarm crowd turned electric in the first half, thanks to a dunk party from the Explorers. Trailing 11-5 after a sloppy start, La Salle sent Tom Gola Arena into a frenzy with four straight thunderous jams all coming off steals to tie the score at 13 and force Dayton to burn a timeout.
Ramon Galloway finished with three of the game-changing slams and totaled four of the teams six dunks in the opening frame.
I think Galloway probably had maybe four of the greatest highlight dunks that this arena will ever see, Dayton head coach Archie Miller said.
The Explorers rode the momentum but couldnt run away from the Flyers.
An entertaining first half coupled with a back-and-forth second half to the tune of 21 lead-changes, but La Salle executed when it needed. With less than 3:30 to play and the Explorers down, sophomore forward Jerrell Wright converted back-to-back three-point plays to hand La Salle a one-point advantage on each basket.
We think hes terrific, Giannini said. If you go back and look at my quotes when we signed Jerrell, I said I think hes going to be one of the most productive players Ive ever coached.
You could tell he was confident. Those two and-ones were gigantic plays.
On the ensuing possession, Dayton went 1 of 2 from the line to even the score at 65, but La Salle then received clutch plays from its two biggest names. Galloway, the A-10s second-leading scorer, drained two free throws before Tyreek Duren turned a steal into a layup, giving the Explorers a four-point cushion it wouldnt surrender.
Galloway scored a game-high 18 points, Wright had 16 and Duren chipped in 14, including his 1,000th point. More impressively, La Salles defensive pressure resulted in 24 turnovers, a variety of dunks and a timely win.
It feels great to get any win in the Atlantic 10, Galloway said. Everybodys good.
And now some of the best are on La Salles horizon.
E-mail Jordan Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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