La Salle v Ole Miss

Tyrone Garland’s ‘Southwest Philly floater’ sends La Salle to Sweet 16 (VIDEO)

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The “Southwest Philly floater” sends La Salle to the Sweet 16.

Tyrone Garland’s shot (and yes, he did name it on TV following the game) with 2.5 seconds remaining proved to be the difference in the Explorers’ 76-74 victory over West Region 12-seed Ole Miss, punching their ticket to Los Angeles where they’ll take on 9-seed Wichita State Thursday night.

Senior Ramon Galloway scored 24 points, Tyreek Duren 19 and Garland 17 to lead the way for La Salle (24-9), which entered the First Four in Dayton having not won an NCAA tournament game since 1990.

Three wins later and this group of Explorers has done something that Lionel Simmons, Doug Overton and the rest of that 1990 team was unable to accomplish. And La Salle, which returns to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1955, did so despite a lack of front court depth against an Ole Miss team that features Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner inside.

The Rebels (27-9) out-rebounded La Salle 40-30 on the night, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds and scoring 20 second-chance points. But they were unable to shake the Explorers, as La Salle shot 49.1% and outscored Ole Miss 27-12 from beyond the arc.

That statistic, along with Ole Miss shoot a putrid 10-of-21 from the foul line, essentially set the stage for Garland’s heroics. Ole Miss shot 4-of-19 from three with Marshall Henderson accounting for all four makes (and 15 attempts). Henderson finished the game with 21 points and Holloway added 14 points and 13 rebounds, but the eccentric shooting guard wasn’t on the floor for the game’s final play.

Subbing Henderson out for defensive reasons, Ole Miss did not call its final timeout following Garland’s floater and that’s a decision quite a few will question in the days to come. But with a school-record 27 victories, it’s difficult to say that this season was anything but a success for Andy Kennedy’s program.

But the story is La Salle, a team that nudged its way into the NCAA tournament field and wasn’t expected to hang around too long given the late-season injury suffered by forward Steve Zack. But with their guard play and tough forward Jerrell Wright the Explorers have won three straight, and they’ll be playing for a spot in the Elite 8 next week.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.