Explorers Still Looking For Signature-Win

La Salle has beaten the teams it should beat and probably have lost to teams it should have lost to just nine games into the 2008-2009 seasons. If the fans were to title the movie for the season thus far they might name it - opportunities missed. A win over Rider showed what the Explorers are capable of. Can the Explorers get out basketball purgatory and be a factor in the Atlantic 10?

Last night at Tom Gola arena, head coach Dr. John Giannini watched his Explorers pass the basketball with precision, shoot the basketball with confidence, and easily dispose of Rider. Just 72 hours earlier he watched in frustration as his Explorers had just 9 assists to 15 turnovers as they were outclassed by Big 5 rival Villanova. While the competition was certainly different anyone who watched both games saw a crisper and more focused La Salle basketball team slice up the Broncos with slick passing that garnered 26 assists on 32 baskets. Junior guard Rodney Green had his best game of the year running the offense dishing out 8 of those 26 assists. On this night it wasn't just the guards but the forwards also moved the ball quicker and more efficiently in and out of the post and in double-team situations. What resulted were much easier scoring opportunities closer to the basket and more open looks at the basket. The question that begs to be asked is where was this team and performance all season?

Remember those 15 turnovers I mentioned against Villanova? They were in force last night as well against Rider as La Salle committed 17 turnovers. So while the assists rose, so did the turnovers against a less superior defensive team. As sure as La Salle will destroy teams on the glass with their rebounding, they will destroy themselves not protecting the ball. It has been a rite of passage for the program over the last couple of years. It is very difficult to beat skilled teams like Villanova when you cannot protect the basketball. While you can get away with it against Rider, Bucknell, Morgan State, Hartford, and Valparaiso, you cannot beat good teams and get what the Explorers are sorely missing from the program's resume this year…….a signature-win. Those types of wins stand out to recruits, look good to those people who select post-season teams, make fans other teams take notice, and finally make us fans feel better about the direction of the program.

It is not the record that bothers most fans. If you took a poll most reasonable fans probably had La Salle win 6 wins to perhaps 7 wins at this juncture in the season. It has been the way the team has performed. Sloppy and unfocused times, it is extremely frustrating watching the Explorers push the number two team in the country to the brink one minute and fighting for their lives against a bottom level division one team the next. Without consistent execution and protection of the basketball you have a team where it probably should be which is thirsting for a program changing win. At least three opportunities have gone and passed for La Salle this year. Not many are left on the schedule. Will La Salle be able to step up to the challenge and get that critical signature-win the next time it presents itself? Last night against Rider was a positive step forward to getting that win but can they continue to be consistent with the improvement shown last night? Right now I don't think even coach Giannini is sure. The fans, the selectors for post-season tournaments, the other teams in Atlantic 10 will all be watching the next time the signature-win knocks. Will the Explorers answer?

Villanova Three Stars of the Game :
Third Star: Paul Johnson
Second Star: Rodney Green
First Star: Kimmani Barrett

Rider Three Stars of the Game :
Third Star: Kimmani Barrett
Second Star: Vernon Goodridge
First Star: Rodney Green

ExplorerHoopReport Most Valuable Player Award Standings for the Season

Kimmani Barrett - 16 points
Rodney Green - 13 points
Vernon Goodridge - 9 points
Yves Mekongo Mbala - 7 points
Jerrell Williams - 5 points
Ruben Guillandeaux - 2 points
Paul Johnson - 2 points