When your team is a double-digit underdog, allowing Saint Joseph's to shoot 63 percent from the field and letting Pat Calathes and Darrin Govens drop 26 apiece isn't exactly a winning prescription.
But then again, La Salle coach John Giannini is the one with a Ph.D.
In what the Explorers' coach called perhaps his biggest win in four years with the program, his team used 16 threes to stay with the Big 5 leaders. A few clutch plays sealed a thrilling 90-89 win.
With the Hawks (16-8, 2-1 Big 5) maintaining a lead for most of the first half, the Explorers (11-13, 2-1) took a 59-57 advantage on an 8-0 run early in the second. The game was neck-and-neck the rest of the way.
As the Hawks clung to a small lead with under five minutes to go, La Salle guard Rodney Green hit just his second field goal of the night on a tough layup to tie it at 81.
Then, after an Ahmad Nivins and-1 tied it up with 1:22 to go, Green threw down a thunderous put-back dunk on the next possession to take an 88-86 advantage.
Down by three, the Hawks had one last chance to tie in the final seconds, but point guard Tasheed Carr - who had only one turnover and seven assists in 30 minutes prior - lost control of the ball and the Explorers held on.
"Maybe the biggest thing that made me want to be the coach at La Salle was these kind of games," Giannini said.
The Hawks were left wondering what happened.
"We weren't sharp in our execution at the very end - we had two of our seven turnovers in that last minute," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said.
Even the Explorers still aren't sure how they did it.
"I was just . thinking, 'how did we give up 63 percent from the field and still win?'" Giannini said. "[Still,] nothing worth achieving is ever easy, and we worked our tails off for those 40 minutes out there."
Not a single second in last night's game was dull, and the final one may have been the most bizarre.
With Green at the free-throw line, up by one with one second to go, he missed the first attempt. Only needing to intentionally miss and make the Hawks chase a rebound, Green stopped mid-shot when he thought he heard whistle, causing a violation and turning it over.
The long inbounds pass was knocked away from Calathes, and Carr couldn't scoop it up and hit the short jumper in time.
"When I saw the ball [finally] hit the ground, I was pretty happy," Giannini said.
Martelli's team was in second place and within striking distance of Atlantic-10 leader Xavier, but this loss was a major setback - especially for a team fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid.
"We had talked about wanting to win the regular season, and that's probably gone now," Martelli said. "But we certainly want a bye [in the A-10 Tournament], we certainly want a piece of the Big 5, and we want to play in the postseason."
La Salle, on the other hand, jumps to eighth place out of the 14-team A-10 at 5-5. It will likely return to the conference tournament after being one of the two teams to not make it last season.
Right now, the Explorers are only thinking about the big upset they just pulled.
"To start to win is just a wonderful feeling," Giannini said. "It's a win that our kids earned - they earned it in the offseason, they earned it fighting through a lot of rough times, they earned it through fighting a lot of negativity and they earned it through continuing to believe in themselves."Comments powered by Disqus
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