La Salle (12-5, 2-2 A-10) has dropped its first two conference road games, and the Explorers now prepare for their toughest week of the season with 13th-ranked Butler and No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth coming up.
Saturday was the type of game the Explorers should probably win if they are to take the next step and make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1992. Cintas Center is one of the loudest venues in the A-10, and Xavier has won 50 of its last 51 conference games here.
But the Musketeers (11-6, 4-0) were picked to finish ninth in the A-10 during the preseason, although Xavier has won four straight to start league play.
La Salle took a 20-9 lead when senior Ramon Galloway drained a long three-pointer with 10 minutes, 7 seconds left in the first half. The Explorers built the lead mostly on layups and dunks by post players Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack.
But La Salle diverted from throwing the ball inside, and then Wright and Zack got into foul trouble. Tyreek Duren's layup with 6:53 left in the half gave La Salle a 24-16 lead. But that was the Explorers' last field goal of the half, and they were down 35-27 at halftime.
La Salle never made a serious threat the rest of the game.
"I just didn't think we responded well," Giannini said. "I know that sounds overly simple. I wish I could point to things other than the outcome of plays and body language to be more specific."