Explorers' Still Inconsistent

With their most recent loss on Wednesday night, a frustrating 62-53 decision to the Richmond Spiders, La Salle once again fell below the .500 mark in Atlantic 10 conference play. Poor shooting and defensive lapses sealed the Spiders' web and once again left Explorers fans wondering why the program cannot get over the proverbial hump.

With their first 7 conference games behind them, which included games against the top teams in the conference, most La Salle fans and even their head coach, Dr. John Giannini thought the light at the end of the tunnel was near. The softer part of their schedule remained, and after playing solid basketball in spurts against Rhode Island and battling conference leader Dayton down to the wire, most felt better times and more wins were ahead. Then the typical La Salle tough luck reared its ugly head. Sophomore forward Yves Mekongo Mbala was lost for at least three weeks with a broken hand suffered in the Dayton loss. The team's third leading scorer and top rebounder would prove to be a difficult loss to replace.

In the initial game following Mbala's injury, the Explorers played a sloppy game against struggling St. Bonaventure and were saddled with poor shooting, turnovers, and equally poor defense in a 5 point loss to the Bonnies. Giannini called the game La Salle's worst of the season. After the stinging loss, a trip to the nation's capitol was just what the doctor ordered. The struggling Colonials could not take advantage of La Salle miscues and the Explorers walked away with a double digit win and got the train back on track toward that light at the end of the tunnel. This past weekend brought a Big 5 and A-10 tilt against bitter city-rival St. Joseph's. The Hawks were among the top teams in the conference at 7-2 and despite playing without Mbala the Explorers dominated play after a sluggish start and where never threatened again enroute to their second consecutive victory over their city rivals. Once again, the train rolls on and chugs toward the end of the tunnel. This past Wednesday the train pulled into Tom Gola arena once again and the Explorers faced the sub-.500 Richmond Spiders. Unable to capitalize on the momentum gained in the victory over St. Joseph's, La Salle started sluggishly and could never sustain momentum even after securing a six point lead early in the second half. Constant dribble and ball penetration from Richmond point guard, Kevin Anderson, shredded La Salle's defense for easy baskets. Couple that with a horrendous 28% shooting performance from the Explorers and you have another missed opportunity for the program as the trains comes off the track again.

Talk among fans now goes from being possibly invited to a post-season tournament to staying alive to reach a winning season; La Salle needs two wins to have a chance for a winning season and three to secure its second winning season in the last 17 years. Truth be told the program is just not there yet to become a consistent winner. Giannini still needs to add talent to the roster. Outside of junior Rodney Green, Ruben Guillandeaux, and Kimmani Barrett, no one on the roster can provide the needed scoring punch to win games consistently. In the loss to the Bonnies, Barrett and Guilandeaux shot 9 for 29 from the floor and in the most recent loss to Richmond; the three juniors shot 10 for 44. You just cannot win games consistently without getting more consistent shooting and scoring from your three biggest scorers. Another year of seasoning will help. As will the addition of 6"11 top prospect Aaric Murray, Chester point guard Karon Burton, and redshirt power forward Devon White. Still more talent needs to be infused and possibly more attitude as well. With 5 more games still to play before the A-10 tournament, the team has a chance to have a winning season. Expectations should be no more than that. Expect the unexpected with this program. Inconsistent play builds an inconsistent track for that train to roll. When it falls off and gets back on the track is hard to predict. Just enjoy when it rolls and try not sulk when it comes to a stop. The track is getting smoother and the light at the end of the tunnel closer. It may just take until next year to reach it but La Salle will get there. Inconsistent may be the word of today, but hope is the word of tomorrow. For die-hard La Salle fans, it always has.

Rhode Island Stars of the Game:
Third Star: Yves Mekongo Mbala
Second Star: Kimmani Barrett
First Star: Rodney Green

Dayton Stars of the Game:
Third Star: Vernon Goodridge
Second Star: Ruben Guillandeaux
First Star: Rodney Green

George Washington Stars of the Game:
Third Star: Kimmani Barrett
Second Star: Rodney Green
First Star: Ruben Guillandeaux

St. Joseph's Stars of the Game:
Third Star: Kimmani Barrett
Second Star: Ruben Guillandeaux
First Star: Rodney Green

Richmond Stars of the Game:
Third Star: Rodney Green
Second Star: Paul Johnson
First Star: Vernon Goodridge

ExplorerHoopReport Most Valuable Player Award Standings for the Season

Rodney Green: 50 points
Kimmani Barrett: 31 points
Ruben Guillandeaux: 20 points
Yves Mekongo Mbala: 16 points
Vernon Goodridge: 15 points
Paul Johnson: 7 points
Jerrell Williams: 5 points