La Salle has good morning

Posted: November 14, 2013

TYREEK DUREN figured the last time he played a game that started at 9 a.m. was in AAU.

"The people in our house all got up at 6:45 and we were all over to the gym early," La Salle's senior point guard said.

La Salle coach John Giannini had told his team that it was just like a weekend practice, that it was nothing new.

Yesterday morning, however, there was an opponent at Gola Arena, a second consecutive opponent from the Metro Atlantic, another opponent that knew where La Salle had been last season and wanted a piece of it and them.

Seemed like La Salle was ahead forever against Quinnipiac, but never by enough to feel comfortable. It did not get comfortable until the final seconds, La Salle winning eventually, 73-67.

"Everything about this stat sheet is terrific, except for the fact that we only made 38 percent of our shots," Giannini said. "Our big guys struggled from the free throw line too. You held them to 38 percent, four turnovers for a game [for La Salle] is astounding. Besides a couple of shots, most of the shots we missed were good ones. People don't necessarily know about all 350 Division I teams, but it's our job to know stuff."

La Salle (1-1) had gotten crushed on the glass in its opener, a two-overtime loss to Manhattan. And Giannini knew Quinnipiac (1-1) had beaten its last 33 opponents on the glass, finished second nationally in rebound margin last season and first in offensive rebounds. La Salle had 43 rebounds, same as Quinnipiac.

Those Bobcats' rebounding numbers always suggested this was not going to be pretty. It was not that, but it does count.

"We got the X on our back now," Duren said. "It's not like anybody's going to come in here and lay down and let us beat them."

The coach was not pleased with Tyrone Garland's overall effort in the opener. He especially did not like that he got zero rebounds. So, the scoring machine started the game on the bench.

"I love Tyrone," said Giannini, who acknowledged all his contributions.

He also said: "We were playing one of the best rebounding teams in the country and I tried to play guys who showed more interest in rebounding on Saturday. I didn't start Ramon [Galloway] against Butler last year and he responded well. If you don't address things when someone doesn't do their best, I think that's bad coaching."

Garland got 12 points in 27 minutes. He also got a defensive rebound with 22 seconds left that essentially clinched the game.

Duren had 17 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals. Like all his teammates except Steve Zack (7-for-11, 15 points), he did not shoot particularly well (5-for-17).

Last March, Jerrell Wright was 22-for-27 (81.4 percent) in four NCAA games, the best percentage by any player with at least three tournament games and four made baskets per game. He was 4-for-17, his close-in shots getting contested by harassing Bobcats. He scored 11 points, but, more importantly, had 12 rebounds.

The morning game was at the midpoint of ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon. And, even though it is really early in the season, La Salle got a win it definitely needed.

"I was emphatic with our team," Giannini said. "We went the whole regular season last year without losing two games in a row. We darn sure weren't going to do it in our first two this year."

The coach said La Salle schedules strategically, expecting that opponents even from lesser leagues will be good and help the strength of schedule. He has gotten what he wanted so far, even if he could have done without the loss on Saturday.

It was 56-56 with 6 minutes left. La Salle (1-1) finally got a working margin, but needed two Sam Mills' free throws with 29 seconds left to regain a two-possession lead. Asked if he was getting antsy when the lead was always tenuous, Dr. G said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Duren said the coach told them that they had best start rebounding or "we are going to start making changes in the lineup."

Everybody hit the glass for the Explorers and they got that dead heat on the boards. On a morning where good shooters shot poorly, that was the difference.

"We're not going to shoot 46 percent in every game this year," Giannini said. "There's going to be your 38s and your 58s. It's all going to even out."

La Salle's record has evened out because it stayed even on the glass with a team that had not lost that battle since March 4, 2012.

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