La Salle snuck into the NCAA tournament as a No. 13 seed in the First Four in Dayton on Selection Sunday. Less than a week later, it now has two NCAA tournament victories, including a big upset over a BCS-conference opponent, and is headed to the Round of 32.
Jerrell Wright had 21 points and eight rebounds as the No. 13-seeded La Salle Explorers upset No. 4 Kansas State, 63-61, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
La Salle grew its lead to as many as 19 points in the first half by doing a lot of the same things it did in its First Four win over Boise State. Guards Ramon Galloway and Sam Mills were able to find open shots on the perimeter off of dribble penetration and ball movement. Galloway finished with 19 points and four assists and Mills added 10 points. They were complemented on the interior by Wright, who was bullying what appeared to be a less active Kansas State front line.
The Explorers carried an 18-point lead into halftime, but the game changed in the second half.
Kansas State center Jordan Henriquez, who had been less of a factor in the first half, shined in the second. His presence around the rim deterred the four-guard La Salle set and kept the Explorers from getting good dribble penetration. The Kansas State defense also rotated much more effectively in the second and kept a defender’s hand in the face of most La Salle three-point shooters. Henriquez finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks.
The Explorers made just three field goals in the entire second half and were outscored, 35-19, in the final 20 minutes. They went without a field goal for the final 7:55 of game time. Wright made 7-of-8 free throws in the last 6:04, which accounted for La Salle’s only scoring down the stretch. His presence on the interior in the second half is the reason La Salle was able to keep its head above water when Kansas State neutralized the Explorer guards.
Also, consider this from CSNPhilly.com:
In the span of three days, La Salle has won as many NCAA tournament games as it won in the previous 57 years combined.
La Salle now moves on to play Ole Miss in the Round of 32 after the Rebels beat No. 5-seeded Wisconsin earlier in the day Friday. That sets the stage for a matchup between polarizing Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson and this strong collection of backcourt players for La Salle.