La Salle went into the game without the services of their leading , rebounder, shot blocker, and second leading scorer Aaric Murray. La Salle was able to stay with Richmond until a barrage of 3′s and the combination of Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper led the visiting Spiders to an 87 – 68 win at the Gola Arena. La Salle Coach John Giannini did not elaborate on Murray not playing, saying it was a variety of things.
Richmond did have the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year contender Kevin Anderson scored a game-high 27 points on 9 of 16 shooting. Anderson made 3 of 4 three-point shots and was a perfect 6 for 6 from the free throw line. Many of his plays happened as Richmond took control of the game.
“We definitely played with a sense of urgency,” said Anderson. “Everything was going to happen on the defensive end. Once we got the stops our defense translated into offense.”
Richmond Forward Justin Harper scored 25 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Center Dan Geriot, a native of Springfield, PA. also scored in double figures adding 13 points.
La Salle had a 6 point lead in the second half. With the score tied at 57 with 10:19 to play, Richmond scored on a layup by Anderson with 9:52 on the clock that ignited a 20 – 2 run over the next six minutes. Anderson scored 9 points in the run, and the Spiders made 3 three-pointers in succession to take command of the game. Richmond’s largest lead was 21 points. Giannini credited Harper as being the catalyst behind the run.
“I was feeling very good about the game until Harper started getting wide open threes, posting up, and dunking the ball,” Giannini said. “I thought that was the turning point. Harper deserves tremendous credit for changing the game and bringing them back. We just didn’t have an answer.”
Richmond shot the ball well in the second half making 19 of 31 shots, 7 of 13 three-pointers. La Salle on the other hand, made 12 of 34 attempts from the floor, and they converted 2 of 10 from beyond the arc.
“In the second half our defense improved and that triggered our offense,” Richmond Coach Chris Mooney said.
Freshman Guard Cole Stefan scored a career-high 15 points for La Salle making 3 three-pointers. Giannini pointed out that Stefan is starting to feel well after a series of concussions and an appendectomy. Junior Forward Earl Pettis scored 12 points, and Freshman Guard added 10 points. Leading scorer Senior Forward Jerrell Williams had 8 points giving hom 1,000 career points. Senior Guard Ruben Guillandeaux did not score as he missed all eight of his shots.
It was a sloppily played first half as each team turned the ball over 8 times. The Spiders were on their way to breaking away in the first half. Leading 12 – 10 with 9:59 to play in the half Richmond went on a 16 – 4 run keyed by 8 points by Forward Justin Harper and 6 by Guard Kevin Anderson. Harper made a 3-Point basket at the 5:18 mark to put Richmond in front 28 – 14. Just as everything was going their way, the Spiders went cold from the floor missing 6 of their next 7 shots. La Salle found the range. Guard Sam Mills headed a comeback scoring 7 points including a 3 at the buzzer to tie the game at 32 going as the teams went into the locker room for halftime.
La Salle drops to 7 – 9, 0 – 2 in the Atlantic 10. The Explorers prepare for a Big Five matchup against Penn on January 12. Richmond improves to 13 – 4, 2 – 0 in conference play. Despite losing six of their last seven games, Giannini feels that the tide will turn for his team.
“I think we are going to play really well from here on in.” Giannini said. “I really do. I know my team. I saw this coming, and I know these kids. Most of the times it’s things like this that brings out their best.”
Key Run of the Game
With the scored tied at 57 with 10:19 remaining Richmond would go on a 20 – 2 run over the next 6:17 to take a 79 – 59 lead with 4:02 on the clock. Anderson scored 7 points in the run. Leading 66 – 59 Richmond made three consecutive 3-Point shots by Forward Francis-Cedric Martel, Guard Cedrick Lindsay, and Anderson to lead 75 – 59 at the 4:52 mark.
Key Stat of the Game
2nd Half shooting percentage. Richmond was 19 – 31 for 61.3%, 7 – 13 3-Point FG, and 10 – 11 in Free Throws. La Salle was 12 – 34 for 35.3%, 2 – 10 3-Point FG, and 10 – 13 from the Free Throw line. The shooting was responsible for Richmond out-scoring La Salle 55 – 36 in the second half.
Key Players in the Game
For La Salle – Guard Cole Stefan scored a career-high 15 points making 4 of 7 shots, 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. Stefan converted all 4 free throws.
For Richmond – Kevin Anderson scored a game-high 27 points on 9 – 16 shooting, 3 of 4 from distance. Justin Harper scored 25 points making 10 of 17 from the field, and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Point Where the Game Was Decided
At the end of the 20 – 2 run Richmond was ahead by 20 with 4:02 left to play. La Salle got no closer than 17 points for the remainder of the game.
Thoughts and Musings
La Salle has lost 6 of their last 7 games. It appears that they have hit rock bottom. Yet their coach John Giannini remains optimistic about how La Salle will perform starting now.
“I know how the response is when we hit rock bottom. Some people have to experience some failure and go through tough times to step it up nad say I don’t want to be this anymore. You are going to see certain people play very well for us now, because I know.”
La Salle Center Aaric Murray was benched for the game. Coach Giannini said he will use this as inspiration to play his best.
“Aaric (Murray) is going to play well for us. When things hot rock bottom, that’s when he steps it up. He is going to respond very well.”
It sounds puzzling, but Giannini believes the Explorers are ready for the good times.
“ I saw this coming, and I know these kids. Most of the times it’s things like this that brings out their best.”
He knows his team.
Written By: Glenn Papazian