When La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini benched Aaric Murray against Richmond a few weeks back, it was clear that Giannini was trying to send a message. It was not as clear, though, whether the message would get through.
Perhaps now it finally has.
After scoring 20 points at Rhode Island last Saturday, Murray tallied 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in the Explorers' 76-72 win over Saint Joseph's at the Palestra last night. And for as memorable as that performance on the court was, Murray's words in the postgame press conference might end up having just as big an impact.
"That message he sent me was a great message," the sophore center said. "I listened to it, and I'm just trying to bounce back strong."
Once Murray was done taking questions, the very first words out of Giannini's mouth were these:
"I told you he was going to start playing well."
Giannini followed that assertion with one of the great press conference riffs in recent Big 5 history. You can listen to the whole thing in the audio player below. It was clear from start to finish that a pretty sizable burden had been lifted from Giannini's shoulders.
"It's just such a pleasure to see [Murray] play up to his potential - it's just wonderful," Giannini said. "It's what we brought him here for, it's what he wants to do, and he's learning how to do it. It's great to see him grow and perform up to his potential, but he's still in the process of learning how to do that day in and day out."
Just because La Salle has put together two straight wins doesn't mean the Explorers are fully on the right track. With upcoming games at Charlotte and at home against Temple, things could very easily go wrong again. But this was the most at ease that I've seen Giannini in a while. It was certainly a stark contrast to his demeanor after that Richmond game.
In addition to the postgame press conference audio, there's a video below with game highlights and some analysis from me and Dick Jerardi of the Daily News. We look at what the result meant for both sides, and also look ahead to the St. Joe's-Temple game tomorrow.