What: La Salle Explorers (3-4) versus Hartford (2-6)
When: 7 p.m., Wednesday
Where: Tom Gola Arena
TV/Radio: GoExplorers.com / 990 AM
By JOE FEDOROWICZ
It has been eight days since La Salle played their last game, a 65-50 shellacking by Northern Iowa in the consolation game of the Paradise Jam tournament. The loss was the Explorers’ second in a row and it was their worst offensive effort to date. Steve Zack led the way with 13 points and 13 rebounds, but was the sole bright spot on a La Salle team that shot miserably: 31 percent from the floor, 25 percent from behind the arc and just 53 percent from the foul line.
On Wednesday, the Explorers will look to regain their grasp on their season when they take on the Hartford Hawks. The Hawks come into this game with a four-game losing streak, their lone wins coming against Fairleigh-Dickinson and Fairfield. Often struggling offensively, Hartford comes in averaging just 61.9 points per game. This in stark contrast of the Explorers, who score 72 points per contest. Hartford also turns the ball over at an alarming rate, averaging 17.3 per game. For La Salle, who thrived at turning teams over last season, this stat should be the prescription to their offensive problems.
Hartford is led by junior swingman Mark Nwakamma, a 6-foot-6 shooter who is averaging 16 points per game. Shooting 42.9-percent from behind the arc, Nwakamma still does most of his damage in the lane and from the line. Like his other teammates, the Hawks’ leading scorer will turn the ball over at an alarming rate, 3.4 times per contest. Joining Hartford as scorers are a variety of guards and 6-foot-10 sophomore Yasin Kolo, who is the Hawks only frontcourt threat. Kolo averages 7.3 points per contest in just over 15 minutes per game. He will be the only defensive test for Zack or Jerrell Wright.
-Scouting La Salle: The Explorers come into the game having lost three of their previous four, but there are many more reasons for John Giannini to worry. The oft-optimistic coach routinely explains that shooters will have both good days and bad, but there are some major pieces that have struggled all season. DJ Peterson, a vital utility player on last year’s Sweet Sixteen squad, was a 40-percent three-point shooter last year. Others have seen drops as well, but a bright spot for La Salle is that if their shooting turns around, they should be in position to win some games. Zack is much improved and Khalid Lewis has looked like a player that can contribute.
Scouting Hartford: Hartford has struggled against talented teams, there is no other way to put it. Their two wins came against Fairfield, who is one of the worst offensive teams in the country, and Fairleigh Dickinson, another team that struggles to score or run a consistent offense. While Nwakamma can score, sometimes proficiently, he is the only real threat to put up real points.
Should the Explorers not turn the ball over, they should have no problem dispatching Hartford at home. This win would be a good ship-righter for the Explorers heading into a Madison Square Garden showcase against Stony Brook on Saturday.
Prediction: Explorers by 20.
Sound Off: Will the Explorers’ shooting woes turn around?