La Salle nearly upsets 18th-ranked Rhode Island

Johnnie Shuler of La Salle walks off the court after their 95-93 overtime loss to Rhode Island d on Feb. 20, 2018 at Tom Gola Arena.

Upsets over ranked teams don’t come easy. It takes 40 minutes of high-quality play.

La Salle gave the full 40, but couldn’t overcome an extra five minutes of overtime against 18th-ranked Rhode Island on Tuesday at Tom Gola Arena.

The Explorers committed their 18th turnover of the game when B.J. Johnson lost a ball out of bounds with five seconds left and the Rams came away with a hard-fought 95-93 victory.

Camera icon CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
B.J. Johnson of La Salle lands among the La Salle Dance Team after mishandling the ball against Rhode Island during overtime on Feb. 20, 2018 at Tom Gola Arena. Lasalle was down by a point with the ball when Johnson fumbled the ball out of bounds. La Salle went on to lose 95-93.

Johnson had a season-high 29 points and a career-high 23 rebounds for the Explorers (11-17, 5-10 Atlantic Ten); his rebound total was second highest in Division I this season. Saul Phiri scored 16 and freshman Miles Brookins added 13 points.

[Box score]

“It was a great college basketball game,” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “The kids played their hearts out.

“It was tremendous drama. They were one play better than us. We had two possessions at the end and didn’t get anything out of them. As a coach, I feel terrible, because that’s on me.”

Dowtin made free throws to put Rhode Island up, 81-78, with 6.7 seconds remaining in regulation.

Rather than let La Salle take a three-point shot, the Rams fouled Pookie Powell (12 points, seven assists), sending him to the line to shoot two free throws.

Powell made the first and intentionally missed the second. Powell’s free throw hit the backboard and barely glanced the rim.

Tony Washington rebounded the miss and put the ball in the basket to tie the score, 81-81.

Camera icon CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Tony Washington, center, of La Salle grabs an intentionally missed free throw to score and send the game against Rhode Island into overtime on Feb. 20, 2018 at Tom Gola Arena. La Salle eventually lost 95-93.

The Explorers started well enough in their quest to beat a Top-25 team for the first time since 2016.

Behind Johnson’s scoring and rebounding, La Salle pushed the pace against Rhody and sprinted to a 30-18 lead with 6½ minutes left in the first half.

Still, the Rams had not won 13 of 14 games in the A-10 without knowing how to deal with some occasional adversity.

E.C. Matthews had seven points, an assist and a steal to lead Rhode Island on a 14-0 run in a 3½-minute span and took a 32-30 lead.

Johnson had 12 points and 10 rebounds at the half, but the Explorers trailed, 39-37. La Salle was hurt by 10 turnovers.

Johnson’s big effort wasn’t enough to keep the Explorers from losing for the fourth time in five games.

Camera icon CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Saul Phiri of La Salle reacts after a shot did not fall on which he was fouled in the 2nd half against Rhode Island on Feb. 20, 2018 at Tom Gola Arena.