Giannini talks UMBC

La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini talks about the Explorers opener this week against The University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Last season the Retrievers upset the Explorers 78-67 last year at Tom Gola arena. The 4th year La Salle head coach is looking for a better outcome this time.

Last year, after a lack-luster performance in the Hawkeye invitational, La Salle was looking forward to getting back home and playing within the comforts of Tom Gola arena against what looked like an easy contest against the UMBC Retrievers. What they encountered was a thrashing against a well-coached and very determined UMBC squad. Led by Brian Hodges and Jay Greene, UMBC penetrated the basketball, shot well from the outside, and out-hustled a young Explorers squad. This year, the Retrievers should be even more challenging as they welcome three solid transfers into the program to join Hodges and Greene in the lineup. 6-2 shooting guard and 6-9 center, Cavell Johnson arrive from James Madison and 6-4 small forward Darryl Proctor arrives from Coppin State and infuse some additional talent for head coach Randy Monroe. Barbosa and Johnson were both solid contributors for CAA member James Madison while Proctor was named the MEAC Rookie of the Year for Coppin State in 2005. In the Retrievers 81-78 victory over St. Peters this past weekend Barbosa led all scorers with 23 points. Without a doubt La Salle will need a better performance this time to win.

ExplorerHoopReport has a chance to speak with Giannini about the game and asked him about the 2007-2008 edition of the Retrievers. "They will be significantly better than last year. They will have three guards that can really shoot, handle and pass. They will have three guys rotating in the two post positions that are good as well. It will be a very good test. We all know what schools like Gardner-Webb, Grand Valley State, and Findley have recently done and how Morgan State took UConn to the wire. I feel UMBC is equal to or better than those teams. Their returning players are good and their three transfers are proven good Division I players". La Salle fans wonder if last season's loss is still remembered by coaches and players and asked Giannini his thoughts. "We remember it well and it makes us respect UMBC and how hard we have to play".

Despite the sour taste, the coaches and players know you need to execute on the floor and winning this game will provide a window to what La Salle must do to avoid the type of season they had last year. When asked about what this year's squad must do to improve on last year, Giannini highlighted a lot of areas most La Salle fans see as needed improvement. "Guard the ball, reduce turn-overs, and continue to be a good rebounding team. We have worked very hard on our shooting, but that can come and go for even the best shooter, so we have to do well in terms of defense and turn-overs". Last year, La Salle was second in rebounding but last in turnover margin.

Defense and turnovers was the Achilles heel of last year's team and without improving those areas La Salle will find a similar fate this year. With the main core group now sophomores will they take that next step needed to become a winning team? Will they learn that defense and taking care of the basketball are so critical at this level of basketball? We will find out right out of the gate as they face a point guard in Greene who carved up the defense last season and if they can correct those deficiencies they should grab a win and use that as a springboard to more success during the 2007-2008 basketball season.