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NEW YORK CITY – La Salle came back from a nine point halftime deficit last Saturday. The opposition was a good Stony Brook team. The setting, the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena’, Madison Square Garden.
The final 20 minutes not only produced a 65-57 victory but several tangibles LaSalle coach John Giannini could admire.
There was the will and determination in battling back from a nine point halftime deficit. “I really liked our defensive effort,” Giannini said, “and the guard play that second half.”
The defense saw the Explorers limited Steve Pikiell’s club to 26 second half points. In tempo free terms Stony Brook was held to a 77 offensive efficiency. Far below the general targeted number of 100. Individually, 6-11 junior Steve Zack, held Stony Brook space eater Jameel Warney to four second half points (15 for the game).
“I just tried to play aggressive and limit his (Warney) touches,” Zack said. Mission accomplished and no small reason for the second half surge by the Explorers.
Tyrone Garland, a junior guard, scored 12 points for LaSalle. Giannini admitted “our guards are better than what they have been shooting. If they start to come around we will be that much better.”
LaSalle’s Junior forward Jerrell Wright lead all scorers with 21 points and drew the praise of Gianinni. “He (Wright) is an excellent player and just a wonderful person,” the coach praised. “At times you need a mean streak on the court. I just wish Jerrell could get that. He can be too nice.”
The formal portion of the post game press conference was over. Now Giannini was in the hallway of the Garden as Fordham and St. John’s were on the floor warming up for their second game contest.
Giannini was asked if he felt his team was playing with a ’bulls eye’. The meaning here is the Explorers, a Sweet 16 team last season, were now the hunted rather than doing the hunting.
“I never believed that,” Giannini said. “My feeling always was when you took the floor the opposition was coming at you with their best effort. We prepared accordingly with that in mind.” In retrospect, Giannini confesses his opinion on that matter has altered. “This season I have to say the opposition does have a little more bounce in their step,” he said. “They know what we did last season and are out there with their ’A’ game.”
Following the Stony Brook win, the Explorers stood at 5-4. Giannini admits their four losses (Manhattan, Penn State, Providence and Northern Iowa) were not total surprises. “These were very good teams we faced,” Giannini said. “Losing was not a big upset but at the same time those losses gave us a sense of disappointment.”
Looking back will not change things. Moving ahead is the priority and as noted, that second half against Stony Brook gave rendered optimism.
“We might have lost a little edge in the off season,” Giannini admitted. When you have a year like LaSalle had last season, culminating in that Sweet 16, there is a tendency for individuals to get complacent. Coming into the current season there has been “a great attitude,” per Giannini. “It is a different season. What we achieved last year is behind us.” This is a new season to earn new achievements.
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