Fordham a measuring stick for Explorers

Derrick Whittenburg's Fordham Rams travel to La Salle for a game that should provide Explorer followers a true barometer of where the program stands with respect to the rest of the A-10. Coming off an easy 23-point victory over a struggling Richmond Spider team, Fordham presents an opportunity for the Explorers to get their first win against a team with a winning record.

Fordham Probable Starters: (11-7, 4-2)

1 Marcus Stout 6"4 JR. G
14 Kevin Anderson 6"3 JR. G
42 Bryant Dunston 6"8 JR. C
31 Dominic Osei 6"5 SR. F
30 Sebastian Greene 6"8 JR. F

Fordham comes into the game on a three game winning streak. Their most recent victory, 77-68 over St. Louis, saw 5 different Rams in double figures led by 6"4 junior guard Marcus Stout who had 17 points. Stout is the leading scorer averaging almost 16 points per game. He is good outside shooter nailing 43% from beyond three-point range but can also take his man off the dribble and get to the rim as he did with a last second basket against St. Joseph's. 6"8 man-child Bryant Dunston is a load to handle in the post. At 6"8 and a generous 233 lbs. He is among the conference's best low post players. He can score on the low blocks or step out to 12 feet and stick the jumper as he did against the Explorers in the A-10 tournament. Fellow junior Sebastian Greene is another double-digit scorer on the Rams who uses his athletic ability to get to the rim and uses that to play pretty good man-to-man defense. Michael Binns, Kevin Anderson, and Chris Bethel are good soldier type players who do what is asked from the coaching staff. Anderson is a terrific defensive player but limited offensively. Binns is a player who can be very good one night and disappear the next. Bethel was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school that is starting to play his best basketball of his college career, including 16 points in the victory over St. Louis. The real surprise has been freshman guard Brenton Butler. His outside shooting has made defenses loosen things up in the paint for Dunston. Averaging 9 points a night while shooting just around 40% from the field, he has also shown the knack for hitting key baskets in ball games.

As a team the Rams are defensive-minded and run offensively only at opportunities. They are very patient with the basketball and look for the best shot possible. Defensively, they are best in the league allowing opponents to score at just 63 points per game. They are also second in the league in steals getting 8 per night. Protecting the basketball is essential when playing Fordham. Offensively they are at the bottom in scoring despite shooting a decent percentage. This is mainly due to their patient offensive sets. They get rebounded by almost 6 per game despite Dunston in the middle.

The Explorers are coming off a 79-56 victory over Richmond. They pounded the Spiders on the boards and got second chance opportunities often. Darnell Harris continues his torrid shooting leading La Salle with 18 points. The Explorers received a strong contribution from junior Sherman Diaz who chipped in with 12. La Salle continues to improve their free throw shooting and are now 5th in conference hitting almost 73% from the stripe. They continue to be among the best rebounding teams in the conference and are currently second behind Massachusetts.

Analysis: La Salle is facing a statement game. Fordham is a good team but probably the worst of the conference's best teams. This is a game the Explorers could steal. They should control the boards but need to take care of the basketball against an opportunistic Rams defense. The real question is whether they can control Dunston. Logic would say he is too good and experienced against the Explorer's smaller frontline to handle. The way to control him is too deny him the ball in the post as much as possible. They must find Stout and Butler around the arc. The more shots Green, Anderson, Osei, and the rest take the better off La Salle will be. Fordham has shown they can hit clutch baskets late. La Salle has not shown that ability. If La Salle is too win they are going to have to show it can do that all of a sudden. A win would put the Explorers in the next step of their development. Stay tuned because this game should be a good one.

Cove Nuggets: Darnell Harris is just 4 points shy of becoming the 46th player in La Salle history to reach 1,000 points.

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