Explorers Claw Their Way to Victory

Amid great expectations and fanfare, La Salle's 2008-2009 opening game was a grind for both team and fans as the Explorers and Morgan State Bears battled neck and neck for 40 minutes before Dr. John Giannini's squad walked off with a 64-61 win before 2,211 fans at Tom Gola Arena.

The new and improved La Salle Explorers were supposed to make quick work out of Morgan State. A bigger and more experienced squad was set to take the next step. Many expected it to happen today but no one told the Bears and their head coach Todd Bozeman. The two teams traded jabs, uppercuts, and haymakers but neither team would yield until the 40th minute when the home team emerged victorious. La Salle was led by a brilliant performance from 6"5 junior Kimmani Barrett who finished with 15 points and a perfect day from the floor shooting 5 for 5 and hitting 5 for 6 from the charity stripe. Barrett shared team high scoring honors with junior point guard Rodney Green who also finished with 15 points. La Salle fans were able to get their first look at highly regarded transfer Vernon Goodridge who finished with 6 points and 3 blocks while being straddled with foul trouble in the second half.

La Salle led at halftime 25-24 with neither team able to distance themselves for any significant period of time. The Explorers were plagued by turnovers for most of the game which prevented them from separating from the visitors. La Salle built several 5 point leads in the second but torrid three point shooting from the Bears in the second half kept them close before two critical rebounds and subsequent baskets from 6"8 sophomore Jerrell Williams put the Explorers up 62-58. La Salle had a chance to seal the victory but Rodney Green missed two free throws that allowed Morgan State one last desperation three pointer that clanged off the backboard as La Salle opened up the 2008-2009 campaign with a victory.

The win cannot be described any better than a grind. Morgan State made La Salle earn almost every basket and forced the Explorers into 19 turnovers while committing just 11 themselves. This was not the typical MEAC team that entered Tom Gola Arena today. The Bears are talented, athletic, and well-coached and will give many teams considered at a higher level fits. While La Salle's play was disjointed and sloppy at times they showed they could win a close game against a good team by making defensive stops late in the game, something that has been a problem for this program the last two years. On Tuesday night Florida State will invade Philly and there is no doubt La Salle will need to play a much crisper and cleaner game to come away victorious. The Seminoles, coached by Leonard Hamilton, are full of young talented athletes who much like the Explorers, are expected to benefit with more experience under their belts.

3 Stars of the Game
After each game, Explorer Hoop Report will give out its three stars of the game. Whether the Explorers play well, struggle or lose we will give out three stars to the three most deserving players and assign points to those players. Number one stars get three points, two stars get two points, and third stars get one point. At the end of the season the Explorer who tallies the most points will be the Explorer Hoop Report's most Valuable Player for 2008-2009. Today's three stars are as follows:

Third Star: Rodney Green
Second Star: Jerrell Williams
First Star: Kimmani Barrett

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