Two games don't make a trend, and it's difficult to pass judgment on a team when the opponent is earnest but sad-sack Fordham.
For the second straight game, though, or since a humiliating loss at Xavier last week that prompted a players-only meeting, La Salle played with energy and commitment to defense in an 86-61 rout of the Rams Wednesday in an Atlantic Ten Conference game at Tom Gola Arena.
"We were a better team than we showed that [Xavier] game," said junior guard Earl Pettis, who called for the meeting in a hotel room. "And I just felt like we needed to get together and find out what was going on out there. Mainly, our defensive effort was inconsistent and we needed to step it up, and the last two games that's what we've been doing, and we're getting stops.
"Coach always gives us a good game plan, but we just weren't executing. We know we can score with anybody, but we weren't getting the stops, and that's what we needed."
Whether this is a legitimate late charge to at least partly salvage a disappointing season remains to be seen. The answer could be revealed Saturday, when the Explorers (14-16, 6-9) end the regular season at Temple.
The loss was the 17th straight for Fordham (6-21, 0-15), which has dropped 41 consecutive games in conference play dating back to 2009. Reasons for such a poor record were apparent during the first 20 minutes, when the Rams shot 20.9 percent (9 for 43) and became the second straight La Salle opponent to shoot below 30 percent. Particularly in the first half, the Explorers contested just about every move the Rams made, contributing to Fordham's misery.
"Everyone on our team can pretty much score the ball," said senior guard Ruben Guillandeaux, who scored 17 points. "But defensively we were very inconsistent with our effort and focus and attention to detail. Now we've had a couple games that we've been doing that."
La Salle's primary task was to contain Fordham's Chris Gaston. Even though the 6-foot-7 sophomore recorded his 16th double-double with 19 points and 17 rebounds, most of his points came after the Explorers had built an insurmountable lead.
La Salle answered Gaston with its own talented sophomore - Aaric Murray, who had 20 points, pulled down 13 rebounds, and blocked 3 shots. Jerrell Williams added 12 points with five assists.
Since the players' meeting, coach John Giannini has been impressed by his team's effort.
"The reason a meeting like that creates positive change is they called each other out. . . . Basically, they took ownership of the team," he said.
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.