Explorers whip Wagner

La Salle's Tyrone Garland takes the ball to the basket past Wagner's Mario Moody in the first half. CHARLES FOX / Staff
La Salle's Tyrone Garland takes the ball to the basket past Wagner's Mario Moody in the first half. CHARLES FOX / Staff
Posted: December 21, 2013

Wagner probably figured it would be in for a long night when La Salle got five shots on its initial possession of the game, then got fouled on the sixth attempt.

The Explorers set the tempo from the first minute and, behind Steve Zack's career-high 17 rebounds, pounded the Seahawks on the boards Thursday night en route to an 80-54 victory at Tom Gola Arena.

Coming off a 21-point crushing at Villanova, La Salle (6-5) hustled from the outset and won the rebound battle, 50-29. The Explorers grabbed 22 offensive rebounds - matching Wagner's output on the defensive boards - and outscored the visitors, 19-5, on second-chance points.

"I believe there are certain games that make your team better," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "Villanova is a ferocious offensive rebounding team. So it was a point of emphasis all last week and we didn't deemphasize it for Wagner. I think Villanova pushed us so hard . . . we're seeing how that can make you better moving forward."

Zack, who also contributed 12 points and four blocked shots, said he was disappointed with his performance - two points, five rebounds - at Villanova.

"I had a really off game that day," the 6-foot-11 sophomore said. "The coaches really challenged me to go out and just rebound the basketball. I didn't care about getting a lot of points, I wanted to go out and grab rebounds. It was going my way, so I just kept going for it."

Zack pulled down 13 rebounds in the first half, one off his career high coming in, and the Explorers used a 32-15 advantage to take a 38-23 lead. La Salle shot nearly 52 percent in the second half and never allowed the Seahawks (5-6) to get closer than 13.

Other impressive numbers dotted the La Salle side of the stat sheet. The Explorers dished out 21 assists (on 29 field goals) against three turnovers. They shot a season-best 42.9 percent from three-point range and tied their high game for makes with nine.

"Shooting is shockingly contagious," Giannini said. "It's unbelievable how contagious it is. I really believe that."

Jerrell Wright led La Salle with 17 points. Guards Sam Mills (13 points) and Tyreek Duren (11 points, six assists) each made three three-pointers.

Wagner played without senior guard Latif Rivers, its top scorer with a 14.7-point average. Seahawks coach Bashir Mason, a former Drexel star, said "it was just my decision" not to play Rivers, who was not injured.


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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