La Salle, Giannini finally come through in a close game

Posted: February 28, 2014

One could almost sense the relief in both John Giannini and his players after La Salle had finally snapped a five-game losing streak in a season that hasn't come close to meeting expectations.

The Explorers saw the streak end with Wednesday's 75-67 Atlantic Ten victory over St. Bonaventure at Tom Gola Arena.

Not since the 2009-2010 season, when La Salle lost eight in a row, had they endured such a long streak.

So while Giannini wouldn't suggest that the win had cured all the ills of his 13-14 team that is now 5-8 in the A-10, he gave an idea of what going through this season, and this particular stretch, has been like.

"Winning beats, as they say, a sharp stick in the eye, which is what losing feels like," Giannini said.

While nobody expects the Explorers to hang around long in the A-10 tournament, the players feel otherwise.

"We know any given day we can beat anybody in the league," said point guard Tyreek Duren, who, along with forward Jerrell Wright, had 18 points.

While some might think that Duren is being unrealistic, the Explorers have shown the ability to be highly competitive with some of the best teams in the A-10.

The second loss of the five-game losing streak came to visiting St. Louis, 65-63. St. Louis is the A-10's top team and already a lock for the NCAA tournament. Another loss was by 97-89 in double overtime to a Virginia Commonwealth team that likely will earn a tournament berth.

Even this win over the Bonnies avenged an earlier, 66-51 defeat at St. Bonaventure.

La Salle also owns a 76-72 win over yet another team contending for a spot in the Big Dance, George Washington.

The problem is that La Salle hasn't been able to finish the deal in the close losses, which is why Giannini felt finally getting it done with the game on the line against the Bonnies was huge.

Maybe La Salle is trying to convince itself that it can be competitive in the A-10 tournament. Remember, last year, when the Explorers won three games to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, they lost their only game in the A-10 tourney to Butler, 69-58.

Still, it doesn't matter what anybody on the outside feels. Duren hopes the final three games - at Fordham, home against George Mason, and at St. Joseph's - can be a springboard.

"I am very confident in our team and know we are just as good as anybody out there," Duren said.

Believing in the team is the first step. The more difficult task is justifying this belief. Duren understands this, but just like last year, he is more than up for an extremely formidable challenge.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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