In my first game preview for Quinnipiac, I highlighted La Salle’s inexperience and how a majority of their contributors didn’t even play college basketball last season. In my second one for St. Peter’s, I took a look at field goal percentages, especially those of Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright, with a couples stats about three-point shooting. Last night, Tyler Harper wrote about La Salle’s offensive success following their 73-60 win over Saint Francis (NY). This morning, nearly a full day later, I can only wonder if this will be La Salle’s offensive game plan going forward.
In response to a comment on my preview of last night’s game, I said the following:
I think Giannini wants to utilize the bigs to work the outside shots, but the bigs haven’t held up their end yet. If and when they do, I think we’ll see better shots and better shooting.
Yesterday, against an undersized and mismatched Terriers’ team, La Salle’s frontcourt had a tremendous game. Wright went for 19 points and nine rebounds and, after missing his first four attempts, ended the game shooting 8-18. Giannini worked him early and often, as the senior got 30 minutes. His post-mate Zack? He finished with another “ho-hum” double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 12 boards in 34 minutes of work. Combined, that means that La Salle’s two primary bigs played 64 of a possible 80 minutes.
Wright just beating up St. Francis right now. Send it in Jerell.
— Joe Fedorowicz (@JoeFedorowicz) November 26, 2014
Their previous high was just 53 minutes in the three games prior.
Who benefitted from the improve play of the two bigs? That would be Jordan Price, the 6-foot-6, strong and athletic guard who went for 30 points yesterday. In his first game since being named Big 5 Player of the Week, Price showed exactly what he can do on the offensive end, shooting 10-17 from the floor and 4-7 from deep. The transfer was also 6-6 from the foul line, but the true indication of his offensive success shines when you look at the assist number, which was seven.
Five of them were to Wright. Two of them were to Zack. That means they were all to bigs, mostly when Price was slashing through the lane.
Now the rest of La Salle’s team didn’t have a spectacular game statistically. The other nine players accumulated just 10 points, on 4-15 shooting (26.7-percent), in 104 total minutes. This disparity between the scorers and non-scorers is different then what Explorer fans are used to in the past few years.
For starters, the games were never dominated by bigs and the scoring was more distributed. This season, John Giannini seems to be focusing on his two bigs and his new big guard in Price, with the rest of the team playing compliment.
As I mentioned before, most of the guards can shoot, if even a little bit, when called on to hit a shot. DJ Peterson‘s scoring usually comes at opportune times as it did against St. Peter’s. Amar Stukes and Johnnie Shuler are freshman and Khalid Lewis has yet to be a consistent option. Cleon Roberts has shown flashes of scoring ability, but he has also been wildly inconsistent and quick to launch a long three-pointer.
Yesterday, however, the disjointed nature of La Salle’s offense to date was not as apparent. It wasn’t beautiful, and the squad struggled from the foul line and turned it over 19 times, but the trio of Zack, Wright and Price seemed to have direction and purpose, and if that yields 47-percent shooting and 73 points per game, the Explorers should be just fine.
So when La Salle travels to Brooklyn to face the #8 Virginia Cavaliers (5-0), I’ll be watching Giannini’s offensive sets. Will the Explorers return to the free, shoot-if-you’re-open style of offense that looks fantastic when shooting well, incredibly difficult when not? Or will this three man game return, with Price, Wright and Zack as the primary options on offense.
UVA has allowed an average of 53 points per contest thus far, albeit against competition at or below La Salle’s standards. They are also the best team La Salle will have faced by a large margin. (Virginia is #5 on kenpom.com, the next highest opponent thus far is Quinnipiac at #142) Should the Explorers hope to win, they’ll have to find what works, and do it well.