While students and players celebrated around him on the floor at Tom Gola Arena, John Giannini remained an island of calm and perspective following La Salle’s 54-53 upset of No. 9 Butler.
The La Salle coach expects his team to play well. He feels that if the Explorers play well, then it’s no surprise to gain a home victory over a high-quality team such as Butler. If they want to be among the contenders for the Atlantic Ten Conference championship, they should be winning games like this.
“You know what’s crazy?” he said after Wednesday night’s game. “I told the team I expect us to be good. If you see me in big wins, I’m not jumping around and doing dances. I expect us to be good. I’m upset when we’re not good. It was a dramatic win for our players and for our fans and students. It was awesome. But am I going to tell you I’m shocked that we won? Absolutely not.
“I just want to be good. Here’s the thing: this win doesn’t mean we’re going to have a great season. We have (No. 19) VCU Saturday. We can’t go in and say, ‘Hey, we beat Butler, we’re really good, are you going to let us win?’ It doesn’t work that way.
“We’re going to enjoy this win and we appreciate it and it’s meaningful. But our work has barely started. Our work for the week is halfway done. Don’t think like this is some landmark win for us. This is a good team that needs to win these kinds of games. This is the business that Xavier does. This is the business that Temple does. This is the business that good A-10 teams do. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for a good A-10 team to beat a terrific team at home. And we just think we’re supposed to do that.”
The Explorers’ winning basket came from Ramon Galloway, who went the length of the court and hit a layup with 2.7 seconds to play. But La Salle’s real glue was provided by point guard Tyreek Duren, who accounted for 16 points, six assists, five rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots – oh, and just one turnover – in 35 minutes.
“We just kept up our defense,” Duren said. “Nobody gave up. They hit some shots at the beginning of the first half and then we came back striking. I think from there, it was blow for blow. Nobody really got a big lead. It was back and forth and Coach G told us it was going to be that way. We knew we weren’t going to blow them out. We just gutted it out.”
The win improved La Salle’s record to 13-5 overall and 3-2 in the Atlantic Ten as they hit the road for VCU. Butler, which had its 13-game winning streak snapped, is 16-3, 3-1, after playing its third road game in four A-10 contests. The Bulldogs played without leading scorer Rotnei Clarke, who has a neck injury but is expected back for Saturday’s home game against Temple.
VCU (16-3, 4-0) carried a 13-game winning streak into Thursday night’s game at crosstown rival Richmond. During that streak, the Rams have outscored the opposition by nearly 22 points per game and have forced 299 turnovers (23 per game) while committing just 154 (11.8).
The Rams were extended into overtime last Thursday at home by St. Joseph’s but picked up a 92-86 victory. The Hawks, who had a four-point lead with 28 seconds left in regulation, committed 20 turnovers to five for VCU and were outscored 31-3 in points off turnovers.
The Explorers had just eight turnovers against Butler, and average less than 12 on the season.