NEW YORK — Ashley Howard doesn’t plan to burn the tape of this game, but he suggested that he won’t have to make a big production out of it either to get players to remember how this one felt.
"To be honest, the players know,'' Howard said after La Salle was escorted out of the Atlantic 10 tournament by Rhode Island, 76-57, on Thursday. “They know.
"They know that we said the goal was to take two charges by the first media timeout. They didn’t do it. They know the goal was to be the first team to dive on the floor for a loose ball, and we didn’t set the tone that way.”
La Salle’s first-year coach added that if the shots still hadn’t fallen — and they certainly were not falling for the Explorers inside the Barclays Center — then all right, at least you’re trying to give yourself a chance.
"There’s really nothing to be said,'' Howard added. “Like at the end of the day, you can tell lies to everybody but yourself. Our guys knew what the deal was going into today. We didn’t quite get it done. We’ll learn from it. If we don’t learn from it, then shame on us.”
A tough shooting first half made for a big hill the Explorers needed to climb, way too big. The shooting woes continued right past the break, ending La Salle’s season at 10-21. The Explorers had lost their first 10 games, then got it together to split their last 20 games before the tournament.
This day, they saw Rhode Island build a 49-30 lead early in the second half, as La Salle’s overall shooting percentage stood at 27 percent. At that point, no Explorers player had more than six points. Saul Phiri ended up leading La Salle with 10 points, on 3-for-10 shooting.
The first half wasn’t the Fatts Russell show — it didn’t have to be for Rhode Island. The Imhotep Charter graduate, who had recently torched St. Joseph’s for 41 points, was more the orchestrator in the first half.
His big man, Cyril Langevine, manhandled La Salle inside, making all six shots he took, going to the line for eight more, converting five, for 17 first-half points. Langevine finished with 25.
Langevine even got two points for the Explorers, whistled for taunting after one of his buckets. Pookie Powell converted the two technical free throws.
Not much else fell for La Salle. The Explorers made 7 of 27 shots in the first half, 2 of 12 three-pointers. A 32-22 deficit was almost a best-case scenario since they got the last couple of baskets of the half, URI not scoring for the last three minutes. For the game, Powell finished his career on a tough note, making just 1 of 14 shots.
If La Salle still had any shot midway through the second half, Russell (19 points, 7 assists) took care of that. The Rams point guard hit a three-pointer off the dribble up top after running down the shot clock himself, then he drove for a rebound and hit another jumper over on the wing. La Salle couldn’t keep up with him, and that was that.
"You know, when you get into a rhythm and you know, the ball just starts to bounce for you,'' Howard said, but he was talking about the Philly guy on the other team. “Fatts has had it going for the last couple weeks now.”