Explorers Open Conference with Mixed Results

Everyone close to the La Salle program knew the early part of the conference schedule was going to be very difficult. After losing the conference opener to Temple and defeating Charlotte on the road for the first time ever, La Salle struggled with 15th ranked Xavier at the Cintas Center and the Explorers left still searching for that first signature win.

It hasn't been pretty. First, losing to Temple in a game which La Salle fans never got the sense the Explorers could threaten the Owls at any point. Three days later they coughed up another second half double-digit lead to a less than impressive Charlotte team on the road but at least La Salle would regroup and regain the lead and nab their first-ever win at Halton arena. So heading into yesterday's affair in Cincinnati, fans were hoping for a good effort versus nationally ranked Xavier and if they could not upset the Muskies, fans were hoping for at least a strong effort to produce some hope for tough upcoming conference games against Massachusetts and Rhode Island. La Salle fans got neither. While victory never was a reality neither was a competitive game as B.J. Raymond torched La Salle's zone defense for 16 points on 4 for 8 shooting from behind the arc and Xavier shot a blistering 52% from the field as a team as it cruised to an easy 73-53 victory over La Salle. While La Salle had shown glimpses of strong play during both the Temple and Charlotte games they were overmatched from the beginning against Xavier. The only offense came from Rodney Green, who was once gain plagued with foul trouble, and Yves Mekongo Mbala. Both players tallied 15 points and were the only Explorers to reach double figures. Tough man to man defense and strong rebounding spelled doom for the Explorers who never could find any offensive flow the entire afternoon. The loss drops La Salle's record to 9-7 overall and 1-2 in the conference while Xavier raises its record to 15-2 overall and 4-0 in the conference.

La Salle continues to show the inability to win games against top competition. The Explorers are now 0-6 against Top 100 teams this year. As was the case yesterday, La Salle also lost the battle of the boards in the loss against Temple in the conference opener. In their win against Charlotte the Explorers outrebounded the 49ers 2 to 1 and were able to gain their first ever win against them since they joined the Atlantic 10. Rebounding is a critical stat for La Salle because they generally do not protect the basketball. In fact, La Salle is the worst team in the conference in turnover margin and they are last by a healthy one turnover a game on average. The Explorers ability to rebound the basketball can offset their problems with turnovers to some degree. It allows them extra offensive possessions which are taken away by the high number of turnovers. Losing the rebounding battle and turnover battle in the same game is a recipe for disaster. In both losses in the conference they lost in both of those areas in the game.

The schedule doesn't get much easier in the next two weeks. After meeting Penn this Wednesday the Explorers are back to conference action with a game on the road Saturday against UMASS, and then they will have George Washington at home before heading right back out on the road to face a surprising Rhode Island Rams before closing out this tough initial start to the conference schedule when Dayton comes to Gola arena. The schedule makers have been unkind to the Explorers, no doubt. It is now apparent that opposing teams know the way to beat the Explorers is keep forcing turnovers and hold your own or beat them on the boards. Until La Salle can protect the basketball better and limit their turnovers there may not be much hope to beat the better teams in the Atlantic 10. To salvage the season they need to hold their own over the next 5 games against some good teams. Therefore something has to break. For die-hard Explorer fans, hope remains. The question remains can the team reward that hope? Time is running out.

Temple Stars of the Game:

Third Star: Kimmani Barrett
Second Star: Ruben Guillandeaux
First Star: Rodney Green

Charlotte Stars of the Game

Third Star: Rodney Green
Second Star: Kimmani Barrett
First Star: Ruben Guillandeaux

Xavier Stars of the Game:

Third Star: Kimmani Barrett
Second Star: Yves Mekongo Mbala
First Star: Rodney Green

ExplorerHoopReport Most Valuable Player Award Standings for the Season

Rodney Green: 30 points
Kimmani Barrett: 27 points
Ruben Guillandeaux: 11 points
Vernon Goodridge: 11 points
Yves Mekongo Mbala: 10 points
Jerrell Williams: 5 points
Paul Johnson: 2 points

Explorer Hoops Report Top Stories