Wichita State ends La Salle's NCAA tournament run in Sweet 16

Posted: March 30, 2013

LOS ANGELES - Throughout its first three NCAA tournament wins, La Salle had reveled in its role as a front-runner. The Explorers' biggest deficit had been five points, against Mississippi.

Against a hard-charging Wichita State team on Thursday night, La Salle experienced a role reversal, and it marked the end of a memorable season.

Trailing by 14 points before five minutes had elapsed and 16 points at halftime, La Salle saw its feel-good season come to an end in a 72-58 loss to the Shockers in a Sweet 16 game at the Staples Center.

"Well, Wichita State won the game in the first half," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "They really overwhelmed us."

La Salle (24-10) was the sixth No. 13 seed to reach the Sweet 16. None of the previous five had made the Elite Eight, which proved to be a bad omen.

Ninth-seeded Wichita State (29-8) will meet No. 2 seed Ohio State in the West Regional final on Saturday.

Guard Malcolm Armstead led the charge for the Shockers with 18 points. Forward Carl Hall was a force in the paint, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds.

"As long as we defend and rebound, we can play with anyone," Hall said. "I just wanted to take advantage [inside] and try to post up."

Guard Ramon Galloway finished with 11 points in the last game of his La Salle career. Jerrell Wright and Tyrone Garland paced the Explorers with 16 points each.

The Explorers, who had earned their first NCAA berth since 1992, could not cope with the inside game of Wichita State, which scored layup after layup in taking a 38-22 halftime lead.

Wichita State entered the game with the eighth-best rebounding margin in the nation (7.9). In the first half, the Shockers outrebounded the Explorers by 26-12. WSU had a 47-29 advantage for the game.

And even more important, the Shockers didn't allow La Salle to get into transition, getting back quickly on defense and forcing the Explorers into half-court sets throughout the game

"I can honestly say by far (WSU was) one of the most physical teams we've played by far," said Galloway, the only senior starter, who had 11 points, finishing his two-year La Salle career with 1,023 points. "I'm looking at the rebounds; it's just they were after it."

Hall, the Shockers' 6-foot-8, 238-pound senior forward and team leader, had been less-than-dominating in his first two NCAA games. During Saturday's 76-70 win over top-seeded Gonzaga, Hall had just 10 points and one rebound in 29 minutes.

His slump ended in the first half against La Salle.

Hall came out with a purpose, scoring 10 of the Shockers' first 14 points as Wichita State took a 14-2 lead. At that point, La Salle had hit just 1 of 7 from the field, while the Shockers were 7 for 8.

"I was trying to run the floor and get some early tip-ins," Hall said.

The lead ballooned to 16 points by halftime, and Hall had done a game's worth of work in the first 20 minutes. By halftime he had 14 points and six rebounds, while shooting 7 for 8, most of the shots close to the basket.

Throughout the tournament, Galloway had been La Salle's leader on both ends of the floor. In the first three NCAA wins, Galloway shot 22 for 41.

La Salle seems to feed off Galloway, and when he is going well, the team usually follows. Conversely, when he struggles, the team often follows that pattern.

Galloway missed his first six shots from the field and was just 2 for 9 by halftime.

"I feel I missed open shots," Galloway said. "I felt offensively I was just missing shots early.”

Garland had a team-high eight first-half points, but he shot just 2 for 10.

The second half didn't start out any better. Wichita State got consecutive three-point field goals from Oregon transfer Armstead and sharpshooting redshirt freshman Ron Baker to increase the lead to 44-22.

Then La Salle showed some fight. The Explorers scored 10 unanswered points, seven straight by Wright and a corner three by Galloway, and it was 44-32 with 16:27 left.

La Salle would get cut the deficit twice to 11 points, but Armstead scored nine straight points for the Shockers, the final three on a trey that increased the lead to 62-47 with 6:40 left.

"I thought when we got the lead down to around 11-12, we had a chance to come back, and we would be stopping then near the end of the shot clock but then Armstead took over," Giannini said.

La Salle’s Steve Zack, who has been sidelined since March 2 due when he suffered a sprained left foot, was cleared to play, but didn’t see action. He worked out on the court for the first time since his injury and on Wednesday, but Giannini said he was too sore when he woke up on Thursday.

The Explorers were naturally disappointed to lose, but there were no excuses.

"If you look at the stats, it's what I expected," Giannini said. "The second half was pretty evenly played, but we were in just too deep a hole. They're a very, very good team."

Contact Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com. Follow @sjnard on Twitter.

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