Despite the fact that he was cleared to play on Wednesday, La Salle center Steve Zack wasn’t in position to help out the Explorers in the paint against a tough Wichita State squad.
According to head coach Dr. John Giannini the 6-11 big man experienced pain and swelling in his left foot after going through Wednesday’s workout, which led to the decision to keep Zack sidelined for Thursday’s game. But Wichita State’s 72-58 victory didn’t come as a result of Zack’s absence and to make such a statement would be unfair to the Shockers.
Wichita State landed the first blow and it was a major one, as the Shockers scored 17 of the game’s first 20 points and frankly wasn’t challenged. La Salle’s issue besides the skill of their opponent: the Explorers played tight.
The free-wheeling guard-heavy rotation that earned victories over Boise State, Kansas State and Ole Miss looked tight at the outset, forcing shots as opposed to working for quality looks and missing the few shots that did come their way.
Leading scorer Ramon Galloway, who averaged 21.5 points and shot 50% from the field in La Salle’s two wins in Kansas City last weekend, managed to score just 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting.
“I just feel like I missed open shots. I missed an air ball, a floater,” said Galloway following the game. “Offensively I was just missing shots early. Wichita State is a great team. They work hard and they play real physical. But I think they were playing really good, hard defense, and I just missed shots.”
Galloway and Tyrone Garland combined to shoot 4-of-19 from the field in the first half and as a team La Salle shot 26.7%. Wichita State took a 38-22 lead into the locker room and after a 6-0 run to start the second half the Shockers were well on their way to the Elite Eight.
Certainly the defeat was a disappointing end to the season for La Salle, but in the days and weeks that follow all involved will begin to appreciate what Dr. Giannini’s team was able to accomplish. One of the last teams in the field of 68, La Salle used its quickness to win three games and go where no Explorer team since 1955 has gone.
A look towards the future won’t benefit Galloway given the fact that he’s out of eligibility. But with the rest of the La Salle rotation expected back next season, a trip to the Sweet 16 is without a doubt something Dr. Giannini’s program can build on.
“We were in the NCAA Tournament; we won games, got to the Sweet Sixteen. We know how this feels,” said Galloway. “So I think it’s going to push our guys to work harder in the summertime and next year.
“So without a doubt in my mind, I know we’ll be back.”