La Salle Takes Down Boise State in NCAA Play-in Game, 80-71

La Salle guard Tyrone Garland celebrates the Explorers' 80-71 victory over Boise St. on Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio.The twenty-one year drought between NCAA Tournament appearances for the La Salle men’s basketball program came to an end this past Sunday when the Explorers saw their name appear on the tournament bracket on national TV.

The twenty-three year drought between NCAA Tournament victories has now come to an end as well.

The Explorers thoroughly outplayed the Boise State Broncos (21-10) at the University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday night, en route to an 80-71 victory in the final “play-in” game of this year’s tournament. With the field of 64 now complete, the madness in March is about to officially commence.

“It’s a relief,” Senior guard Ramon Galloway said. “We were kind of in a slump. We’re at our best when we can knock down shots and get up and down the floor. For us to have this type of game and win, it relieves a lot of pressure off our chest because now we have even more confidence going into the next game. We know that every day, it’s win or go home. We want to be there. We want to make a statement.”

La Salle’s last win in the Big Dance came under the tutelage of head coach Speedy Morris, when Doug Overton and Big 5 legend Lionel “L-Train” Simmons led the 1989-90 squad to a 30-2 overall record and a 4-seed in that year’s NCAA Tournament. After defeating Southern Mississippi, the Explorers suffered a heartbreaking loss to Elden Campbell and the 5th-seeded Clemson Tigers in the round of 32. Little did the La Salle community know at the time that the program wouldn’t experience tournament success again until more than two decades later.

Following an emotional weekend ending in celebration, La Salle played their best game of the season just three days later on Wednesday night against Boise State.

The Explorers were quicker, more aggressive and more efficient. They made 25 of their first 41 shots from the field and 11 of their first 20 3-point attempts. La Salle dominated even with star guard Tyreek Duren having an off-night, finishing the game with just four points on 1 of 6 shooting, 11 below his 15-point average. Junior guard Sam Mills covered for him by hitting 4 of 5 from beyond the arc and scoring 12 points.

Ramon Galloway and backcourt-mate Tyrone Garland put on a show. Boise State’s perimeter defenders simply couldn’t keep up with the lightning-quick duo, as Galloway finished the night with 21 points on 8 of 13 shooting and Tyrone Garland added 22 points, converting an incredible 9 of his 11 attempts from the field. The two combined for 5 of 10 shooting from long range, with Galloway also chipping in with 4 assists and 4 rebounds, and Garland adding 3 assists.

Garland’s alley-oop pass to Galloway for a thunderous dunk off a fast break gave La Salle its biggest lead of the game at 14, 31-17, with 5:24 left in the first half, and the Explorers never looked back.

As a team, La Salle shot a season-high 63.3 percent from the field and 52.4 percent from three-point range, finishing with 11 treys on the night. The Broncos simply had no chance of keeping La Salle’s backcourt from penetrating, and when they weren’t getting to the rim and finishing with layups, the Explorers were driving, drawing defenders and kicking the ball out to the perimeter for open threes.

La Salle shot 73 percent from the field in the second half alone, the highest shooting percentage in any half of any game over the last five NCAA Tournaments.

6’6 Sophomore guard Anthony Drmic almost single-handedly kept the Broncos from being run out of the gym. He finished the night with 28 points on 9 of 17 shooting, including 5 of 10 from three-point range. He also got to the charity stripe a game-high six times, converting on five of those free throws.

The Boise State offense as a whole did not play badly, shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc. The difference in the game ended up being the overall talent advantage of La Salle’s backcourt, which was no match for Boise State’s mediocre defense.

The Explorers now travel to the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri on Friday to take on the 4th-seeded Kansas State Wildcats at 3:10 PM.

With the added confidence from their dismantling of the Broncos, La Salle has more than a fighting chance to take down Kansas State.  Like Ramon Galloway said, the Explorers wanted to make a statement … mission accomplished.

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Andrew Dalton

Andrew grew up and still resides right outside Philadelphia in Montgomery County and has been a die-hard Philly sports fan for as long as he can remember. One of his earliest sports memories, unfortunately, was watching Joe Carter hit the World Series winning homerun off Mitch Williams in 1993 with his Dad. All that did however, was make the Phils' 2008 World Championship that much sweeter. You can follow him on Twitter @dutch4885.