Who: La Salle (12-12, 4-6 A-10) at Dayton (17-8, 5-5 A-10)
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday
Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, OH
TV / Radio: CBS Sports Network / 990 A.M / GoExplorers.com
BY JOE FEDOROWICZ
“I think we are deficit in the intangible of passionate energy.”
That was John Giannini, following a tough loss to St. Joe’s on Saturday, a game that saw the Explorers fall behind, limping to the final buzzer. The game was the sixth loss in seventh game for La Salle and, despite many of those games coming against the top teams in the conference, the Explorers have fallen down into the bottom of the conference standings.
On Wednesday, La Salle travels to Dayton to face the always-tough Flyers, a game that could define how the 2013-2014 season is judged by fans and the rest of the Atlantic 10. With an RPI of 59, Dayton is on the cusp of an NCAA bid and is currently among our resident bracketologist’s first four out. The next three games are vital for La Salle, especially after their coach explained the lack of “intangibles” that were so prevalent on the Sweet Sixteen team. While Giannini didn’t throw his team under the bus, he is definitely looking for someone to take the reins as leader of a group that desperately needs one.
Scouting Dayton: Archie Miller‘s group hasn’t played amongst the top of the Atlantic 10, but have been nipping at the heels of VCU, St. Louis and St. Joe’s for the entirety of the season. In the out of conference schedule, Dayton earned wins over BCS teams in Georgia Tech, California, while grabbing a victory over perennial mid-major power Gonzaga. Losses to Illinois State and USC, two teams outside of the top-100 in RPI, is what is keeping Dayton from being firmly in the tournament. Within the conference, only a 12-point loss to Rhode Island stands out as debilitating, while the Flyers have grabbed wins over George Washington and St. Bonaventure.
Coming in on a four game winning streak, Dayton will look to rely on Devin Oliver and Jordan Seibert. Oliver, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, comes in averaging 12.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Despite his size, Oliver is dangerous from deep, shooting 43.5-percent from beyond the arc. Seibert is equally as dangerous, shooting 42.5-percent from deep while averaging 12.1 points per game. The 6-foot-4 junior really lets it fly, averaging over five attempts from deep per contest.
Joining those two in double figures is Dyshawn Pierre, a 6-foot-6 sophomore that can also shoot from deep and score from within. Pierre averages 11.7 points per contest, also grabbing almost six rebounds per. As far as a frontcourt goes, the Flyers work by committee. Matt Kavanaugh is 6-foot-10, a crafty senior that put up 23 points and nine rebounds against La Salle two seasons ago. Having sat out last year, the big man is averaging just 15 minutes per game. Joining him are three players at 6-foot-9, but none of which average more than five points per game.
As a team, Dayton will look to work the clock and get a high percentage shot. Shooting 47.3-percent from the field and 38-percent from deep, the Flyers are best in the Atlantic 10 at limiting their bad attempts. They also rebound on the offensive end, grabbing an offensive board on 36.2 percentage of attempts, second in the conference. Where they struggle is with interior defense, averaging just 2.7 blocks per game and at defensive rebounding. The lack of a dominant big man seems to hurt Dayton, which means that it will be vital for Zack and Wright to stay out of foul trouble.
Scouting La Salle: La Salle continues to struggle in the area of scoring, with Tyreek Duren and Jerrell Wright carrying much of the burden. Duren comes into the game leading the team with 14.5 points per game, while Tyrone Garland and Wright come in at 13.6 and 12.6 points. While Garland has been scoring, he has been doing so by shooting a low percentage. The senior is fifth in the Atlantic 10 in field goals attempted and third in shot percentage, which measures how many possessions on the floor end up with #21 putting it up.
Garland’s 34.4-percent shooting is third worst on the team, just ahead of Taylor Dunn and Khalid Lewis. Though the Explorers sometimes need his pop in the lineup, the offense sometimes grinds to a halt with his style of play. Shooting just over 24-percent from beyond the arc, Giannini will have to reel in his explosive two-guard if he hopes to stay with an efficient team like Dayton.
On the flip side, Jerrell Wright’s percentage is through the roof. Coming in at 55-percent from the floor, Wright has continued to be a threat on the interior. His biggest challenge has been staying on the floor, a point Giannini hammered home on Saturday. Without him, La Salle struggles to get interior looks, hence the coach said he might have to play him with three or four fouls.
Sound Off: Can La Salle get back on track? Does Giannini switch anything up to build some energy?