Explorers face critical game

Make no mistake about it. La Salle faces a critical game against Temple that will go a long way in determining who goes to Atlantic City for the Atlantic 10 tournament, and may stay home. The Explorers are desperately looking to end a two game losing streak that has left them wondering what could have been.

Temple Probable Starters: (8-12, 2-5)

15 Semaj Inge 6"4 SO. G
22 Dionte Christmas 6"5 SO. G
3 Dustin Salisbury 6"5 SR. G
13 Mark Tyndale 6"5 JR. G
4 Dion Dacons 6"6 SR. F

1st year head coach Fran Dunphy was left with some offensive talent by longtime head coach John Chaney but not a lot of size. Dunphy relies on a four guard offense and like La Salle, has big wing players and guards that can get out on transition. Led by Atlantic 10 leading scorer Dionte Christmas (21.4 pts/gm), Dustin Salisbury (16.5 pts/gm) and Mark Tyndale (16.9 pts/gm), the Owls have a very effective three headed offense who can shoot from the outside, post up, or slash to the basket. Those three players shoot an incredible 63% of Temple's shots and would be even higher if Tyndale was eligible the first semester. Temple is third in the conference in scoring and among the best in field goal and free throw percentage. Dacons is the Owls' defensive stopper. He is a nuts and bolts player who does a lot of the dirty work. 6"11 sophomore Sergio Oleos is the only player with considerable size who sees playing time. Since A-10 play began Dunphy has decided to push the basketball and trying to outscore teams due to his three offensive stars and lack of size and depth. Defensively the Owls are second to last giving up an average of 80 points per game in the conference.

The Explorers are coming off another frustrating loss on the road to Charlotte. They led the game by 14 points with less than ten minutes to play. A technical foul by freshman guard Ruben Guillandeux contributed to another one that got away. La Salle continues to beat most teams for 30-35 minutes before folding late in games. Coach John Giannini's top scorer, Darnell Harris, became the school's 46th 1,000 point scorer getting 13 points in the loss to the 49ers. Sophomore Paul Johnson had a break-out game leading the Explorers with 17 while Sherman Diaz, also turned in a good performance with 10 points on perfect shooting. La Salle continues to lead the conference in rebounding getting more than 8 boards a game than their opponent.

This game, like Fordham is a chance for La Salle to take another step in their development. They have failed to take that step previously. Quite frankly this is a game the Explorers should win. They have more overall depth and talent than Temple. Still a team with mostly freshmen don't always show that and the devastating loss to Charlotte will test the young Explorers fortitude in this game. Can they put that behind them and play the way they did against 49ers for an entire 40 minutes against the Owls? Chances and opportunities are slipping by and so may a trip to Atlantic City if they lose to the Owls. It is time for the young Explorers to grow a little against a smaller and overall less talented Owls team could be the medicine.

Keys to victory :

Dominate the boards
Force Tyndale and Salisbury to take more shots than Christmas
Get production inside the paint
Get Mbala more active

Explorer Hoops Report Top Stories