Wright and La Salle overpower Rhode Island

Steve Zack, who had 11 points for La Salle, fouls Rhode Island's Hassan Martin.
Steve Zack, who had 11 points for La Salle, fouls Rhode Island's Hassan Martin. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 17, 2014

La Salle coach John Giannini was expressing a simple philosophy on playing the game the right way by finding the open man on offense, and then amended that thought a little bit.

"Our game plan is really to get the ball to the open guy and do all we can to make sure it's Jerrell," Giannini said Wednesday night, referring to junior forward Jerrell Wright.

A 6-foot-8, 255-pound Dobbins Tech grad, Wright scored 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to help the Explorers remain unbeaten in the Atlantic Ten Conference with a 72-62 victory over Rhode Island at Tom Gola Arena.

Wright made 6 of 9 shots from the field for La Salle (10-6, 3-0), grabbed four rebounds off the offensive boards, and passed effectively out of Rhode Island's double-team in the post.

"My guards believe in me, giving me the ball down low," said Wright, who is shooting around 65 percent in his last 10 games. "I knew sometimes [the Rams] were going to double-team me. I looked for the guards as much as I looked for myself when I was down in the post."

When asked about his shooting success lately, Wright replied: "Coach G lets me be aggressive. When I get the ball down low, I take my time and go up strong."

Tyreek Duren scored 15 points for the Explorers, who trailed for the only time at 18-15 with 7 minutes, 34 seconds left in the first. La Salle finished the period on a 22-8 run, sparked by Wright's three-point play and seven points off the bench from sophomore guard Khalid Lewis, and took a 37-26 lead at intermission.

Wright scored six points in the opening stages of the second half to help the Explorers maintain the double-digit lead. Rhode Island (9-9, 0-3), which was led by Xavier Munford with 21 points, twice cut the La Salle advantage to six.

But 6-1 guard Tyrone Garland stopped one run with a challenged dunk that Giannini referred to as the "Southwest Philly Slam," a takeoff on last year's game-winning "Southwest Philly Floater" that defeated Mississippi in the NCAA second round.

Sam Mills put a dent in Rhode Island's other run with back-to-back threes that helped get the lead back to 11 with just under seven minutes to play. Mills and Steve Zack added 11 each for the Explorers.

Giannini wasn't all that pleased with his team's defense in the second half but liked the way the Explorers grinded out the win.

"So much of this game is mental and it's grinding and pushing yourself, and it's digging down on defense," Giannini said. "It wasn't anything technical, I think it's just Rhode Island is good, and we dug down a little deeper."


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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