La Salle knocks off St. Joe's, 71-63

LaSalle's D.J. Peterson tries for the steal on a pass to St. Joe's Ronald Roberts, behind Roberts is Steve Zack. LaSalle at St. Joe's in men's basketball game on Sunday, March 9, 2014 at Hagan Arena. ( RON CORTES / Staff Photographer )
LaSalle's D.J. Peterson tries for the steal on a pass to St. Joe's Ronald Roberts, behind Roberts is Steve Zack. LaSalle at St. Joe's in men's basketball game on Sunday, March 9, 2014 at Hagan Arena. ( RON CORTES / Staff Photographer )
Posted: March 11, 2014

A few minutes after a 71-63 loss to La Salle on Sunday, St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli stood in the center of his red-carpeted locker room and apologized to his players as they sat at their stalls.

The Hawks coach told his team he was not ready for La Salle. He did not see it coming, Martelli said. Langston Galloway, the team's star senior, said the players offered nothing in return. The loss was not the coach's fault, Galloway said.

"We just have to get ready for Friday," said Galloway, who led the Hawks with 27 points in the regular-season finale at Hagan Arena.

Friday becomes even more critical to St. Joe's NCAA tournament hopes. The Hawks (21-9, 11-5 Atlantic 10) failed to secure the second seed in the A-10 tournament and instead will enter as the fourth-seeded team. St. Joe's will play in the quarterfinals Friday at 2:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The matchup depends on Wednesday's opening-round game between George Mason and Fordham. The winner of that game will play Thursday against Dayton, with the victor facing St. Joseph's.

The Hawks' chances for an at-large NCAA tournament bid have decreased after two straight losses, and they likely will need to win at least one tournament game to be back on the bubble. Martelli said he has "no idea" what his team needs to do to lock down a bid.

"I haven't talked about it, I haven't thought about it," he said.

The Hawks were thrown off by La Salle's box-and-one defense, in which a defender was constantly attached to Galloway. La Salle forced 10 first-half turnovers and led, 33-23, at halftime.

La Salle coach John Giannini said his team's defensive strategy was "the ultimate compliment" to Galloway. As the defense focused on the top option, it allowed La Salle's four other defenders to play a switching defense on Halil Kanacevic. La Salle (15-15, 7-9) held the senior forward to just six points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field.

Tyreek Duren led La Salle with 27 points, including 14 of the team's final 15 points. The senior guard sank 11 free throws in the final two minutes to seal the win. Jerrell Wright added 17 points, 14 of which came after halftime. He grabbed 12 rebounds and attracted a double team almost every time he received a pass in the low post.

"I think that's what we did a lot last year - played through our bigs," Duren said. "Then that opened up everything for our guards. I think that's what was so hard for people to guard - our guards."

Even though La Salle's offense returned to last season's form, the Explorers will need to borrow some 2013 magic to head back to their second straight NCAA tournament. They enter the Atlantic 10 tournament as the No. 8 seed and will play Thursday at noon against St. Bonaventure.

La Salle likely would need to capture the A-10 title to reach the NCAA tournament. To do that, the Explorers would have to win four straight games for just the second time this season.


BY THE NUMBERS

34th

St. Joseph's ranking on RealTimeRPI.com before Sunday's game.

2008

Last time St. Joe's made the NCAA tournament.


mbreen@phillynews.com

@matt_breen

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