On Wednesday night, Ron Roberts posted his 11th double-double of the year, and the Hawks squeaked out a 61-55 home win over Richmond. The task at hand Saturday is much tougher, as the La Salle Explorers come in at 17-6 overall this year, and an impressive 7-3 in Atlantic 10 play.
La Salle strung together back-to-back wins at the end of January over Butler and VCU, which catapulted them to the forefront of the Atlantic 10, and into the national conversation for the first time in decades. At 7-3 in league play, the Explorers are currently a projected NCAA tournament team. Hawk Hill Hardwood goes in depth into their roster, looking at exactly what makes them tick.
Anyone who has watched even a half of La Salle basketball this year can tell you one thing: their guards can play with just about anyone. The Explorers frequently go to three and four guard sets. It all begins with the play of South Carolina transfer Ramon Galloway.
The 6'3 senior, a Philadelphia native, is averaging just over 17 points per game this year, and can really get hot from three. Galloway had 31 in their huge upset win at VCU, knocking down four threes in the process. He shot 6-10 from three against Siena and also went 5-7 from downtown against Fordham.
Tyreek Duren and Virginia Tech transfer Tyrone Garland are two more offensively-minded backcourt players for the Explorers. Duren is averaging 13.9 a contest, while Garland scores at a clip of 12.6 points per contest.
In addition to Garland, Duren, and Galloway, Sam Mills is also a critical part of the Explorers' backcourt. There, La Salle has a significant advantage over the Hawks. If La Salle can dictate tempo and get open looks from three against the Hawks, it could be a quick, and ugly, end result.
However, while the Explorers have a significant advantage in the backcourt, it's the Hawks who should have a clear-cut advantage inside. Sophomores Jerrell Wright and Steven Zack are both solid to quality Atlantic 10 players. The issue for La Salle is that they don't have any depth behind them.
If Saint Joseph's can exploit their advantage inside, they could find themselves in a position to earn a critical Big 5 and league win. Should either Wright or Zack find themselves in foul trouble, the Explorers could find themselves in trouble. The question at hand is whether the Hawks script a gameplan that includes pounding the ball inside, or if they try to run and gun with the Explorers.
If the Hawks are able to get Halil Kanacevic, Ron Roberts, and C.J. Aiken frequent touches in or around the basket, and are able to play at their tempo, they could find themselves on the winning end of things. If not, if the Explorers are able to make it a three-point shooting contest, then things could get ugly for St. Joe's.
If the Hawks are to make any sort of late-season surge, it will need to begin Saturday afternoon at The Palestra. This one has league, Big 5, and possible post-season repercussions for both teams.
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