La Salle University’s impressive season continued Wednesday night as the Explorers (13-5 overall, 3-2 A10) defeated the 9th ranked team in the nation, the Butler Bulldogs (16-3, 3-1) in thrilling fashion 54-53. Although La Salle came into the game as a 2.5 point favorite, it was clear that only the oddsmakers considered Butler the underdog. Tom Gola Arena, located on La Salle University’s campus, was filled to the brim with 3,400 maniacal Explorers fans, all itching to storm the court after what they all hoped would be a signature win for the program.
Butler’s leading scorer, Rotnei Clarke, missed his third straight game with a sprained neck, however his absence hadn’t slowed the Bulldogs’ run of 13 straight victories, including Saturday’s buzzer-beater win over then no. 8 Gonzaga, 64-63.
La Salle trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half, however never allowed Butler to fully take control of the game, and continued to hang around. The Explorers’ Ramon Galloway dunked off a turnover to keep it at a three point deficit, and Tyrone Garland and Tyreek Duren buried consecutive three-pointers to cut Butler’s lead to 28-23 at halftime.
Midway through the second half, Duren hit a 3 to make it 38-35 and Sam Mills made two from the free throw line to cut Butler’s lead to one. Duren followed with a spectacular driving layup to give La Salle the 41-40 lead, and Tom Gola Arena exploded. Galloway and Khyle Marshall traded layups until Garland drained a 3 that gave La Salle a four-point lead with just 7:40 remaining.
Butler’s Andrew Smith however scored 9 of the game’s next 13 points to give Butler a 51-50 lead with just over a minute to play. Following a Sam Mills jumper and a Butler timeout, Smith made a driving layup to put Butler ahead 53-52 with just 8 seconds left, and it appeared as though the Bulldogs would eke out another victory. The hero of the night for La Salle however, Ramon Galloway, took the ensuing inbounds pass, went coast-to-coast, racing past Smith and Roosevelt Jones, en route to the game winning basket that sealed the stunning victory for the Explorers, and flooded the court with 3,400 delirious fans.
La Salle looks to continue their winning ways as they travel to the Stuart Siegel Center in Richmond, Virginia on Saturday to take on the 19th-ranked VCU Rams. Tip-off is at 8:00 PM.Tags: Big 5, La Salle, NCAA, Ramon Galloway, Sam Mills, Tyreek Duren, Tyrone Garland, victory