La Salle looks to stay hot in A-10 opener

La Salle's Tyreek Duren. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
La Salle's Tyreek Duren. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 14, 2014

La Salle looked like the Explorers of last March during Sunday's 71-63 win at St. Joseph's.

"I think it was our best game," La Salle coach John Giannini said.

The Explorers hope that momentum carries into the Atlantic Ten tournament.

Unlike last year, when La Salle lost its lone Atlantic Ten tournament game to Butler but still received a bid to the NCAA tournament, this season's team has no margin for error.

La Salle (15-15) likely has to run the table, winning four games in four days to return to the NCAAs after last year's Sweet 16 run.

The A-10 tournament will begin Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and No. 8-seeded La Salle will plays a familiar foe in the noon opener, No. 9 St. Bonaventure.

The teams split this season, with La Salle losing at St. Bonaventure, 66-51, and the Bonnies falling to the Explorers, 75-67, at Tom Gola Arena.

"It's going to be a tough game," said guard Tyreek Duren, a second-team all-A-10 choice. "We both know what each other can do."

If the Explorers can get running the way they did against St. Joseph's, they can be a dangerous team.

"Sunday was our best transition game, but we have been trying to do that," Giannini said. "The other team knows that is what we want to do."

Another key is getting 6-foot-8 junior Jerrell Wright more involved offensively. Opponents have been keying on Wright, who is averaging 12.9 points and 6.6 rebounds. Against St. Joseph's, he had 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Wright played his best in last year's NCAA tournament. In games against Boise State, Kansas State, Mississippi, and Wichita State, he shot 22 for 27 from the field. His .815 shooting percentage is the best of any player ever to play at least three NCAA games and average four field goals per game.

"It is everybody's dream to play in the NCAA tournament and win games, and we did that. But now it's on to St. Bonaventure," Wright said.

The Bonnies (16-14) are led by two senior guards, 6-4 Matthew Wright (16.7 ppg.) and 6-3 Charlon Kloff (11.5 ppg.).


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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