The La Salle Explorers, looking for back-to-back victories for the first time this season, used a decisive second-half run to find just that Wednesday night, earning a 68-51 victory over Northeastern at Tom Gola Arena.
The Explorers overcame a sluggish start in their nonconference victory over the Huskies. With the score tied at 26, La Salle, coming off an 82-70 win over Rider, used a 25-6 second-half run against the overmatched Huskies to put away the game.
It started with Tyreek Duren's layup with 17 minutes, 4 seconds left in the game, and when it concluded on Earl Pettis' three-pointer with 10:02 left in the half, it was evident that the Huskies' trip back to Boston would not be the joyride the New England Patriots enjoyed after routing the Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Although the Explorers relented late in the game, the Huskies never mounted a truly serious threat.
Pettis led La Salle with a game-high 15 points. He also led the Explorers with seven rebounds. Ramon Galloway added 14 points.
The biggest difference between the teams was long-range shooting. The Explorers were 9 for 20 from behind the three-point line; the Huskies were just 1 for 9 (11.1 percent). In the second half, the Explorers were 7 for 8 from behind the arc.
"They really had a nice rhythm, especially during that run in the second half," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "That's where they took it up a notch. And tonight they were falling for us."
While his team's offense wasn't too shabby, it was the Explorers' stingy man-to-man defense - what Giannini has been emphasizing since the season started - that got the coach most excited.
"If you throw out Syracuse, you throw out Baylor, and you throw out Coach [John] Chaney's great teams, I think clearly a very high percentage of teams play great man-to-man defense," Giannini said. "We don't have great length to be a zone team. And again, if you look at most great teams they play solid man-to-man defense."
La Salle, undefeated on its home court, made 50 percent of its field-goal attempts (26 for 52) while Northeastern was just 15 of 50 from the field. The 22 turnovers didn't help, either.
The Huskies were hampered by La Salle's defense all night and connected on just 32 percent of their field goals (16 for 50).
The Explorers have been a bit of a mystery and rather unpredictable in the early stages of the season. They earned relatively easy victories over Lafayette and James Madison and drew some attention nationally with a hard-fought, 73-69 loss to Pitt. But the Explorers also dropped an overtime decision to Big Five rival Villanova.