Garland’s “Southwest Philly Floater” Propels La Salle into the Sweet 16

La Salle guard Tyrone Garland hits the game winning shot in the Explorers' 86-74 win over Ole MissFor the first time in fifty-eight years, the La Salle Explorers are headed to the Sweet 16.

With possession of the ball and exactly 32 seconds left on the clock, Explorers guard Tyrone Garland drove to the basket and lifted a floater high off the glass and over the out-stretched hand of Ole Miss center Reginald Buckner. The ball rattled around the rim before falling through the net, and La Salle held a 76-74 lead with just three seconds remaining in the game.

Ole Miss in-bounded the ball and heaved a three-quarter-court shot that went over the backboard as time expired, and the game was over.

In his post-game interview, Tyrone Garland called his game-winning shot the “Southwest Philly Floater,” which he later explained was taught to him by his cousin ”Bern,” growing up on the playgrounds of Southwest Philadelphia.

“I just knew I wasn’t going to settle for a jump shot,” Garland said. “I was going to get to the rim because I didn’t make that many jump shots during the game.”

Garland said he felt he was either going to make the shot or draw a foul, and it didn’t matter that it was over the towering Buckner, who finished the regular season with a 2.68 blocks per game average, ranking 2nd in the SEC.

“I’m not scared of anyone,” he said. “I just went in there, knew if I had a clear shot, I probably had a chance of making it.”

The 13th-seeded Explorers will now travel to the Staples Center in Los Angeles to take on the 9th-seeded Wichita State Shockers, who advanced to the Sweet 16 themselves by defeating the West region’s top team, Gonzaga, on Saturday night. The game will be played on Thursday, March 28th, tipping off at 10:00 PM.

The match-up between La Salle and the Rebels of Ole Miss originated by way of both teams beating higher seeds in the tournament’s round of 64 on Friday. The Explorers knocked off 4th-seeded Kansas State and Ole Miss knocked off 5th-seeded Wisconsin.

On Sunday night, the Explorers held the advantage for much of the first half, leading Ole Miss 40-38 at the break. For the first time in the tournament, La Salle was in control, but did not have a big lead. Never appearing out of his comfort zone, the play of Senior guard Ramon Galloway led the Explorers into halftime with the lead, nailing five three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes en-route to 19 first half points.

The two teams exchanged buckets for the better part of the second half until a Galloway layup at the 11:06 mark gave the Explorers a 55-52 lead. The Rebels answered, however, with a 7-0 run over the next two minutes as they began to exploit their size advantage over La Salle down low.

With the Ole Miss lead at four, Galloway’s teammates stepped up. Sam Mills nailed a three followed by jumpers from Garland and Tyreek Duren to pull the Explorers to within one, 65-64. Following the final media timeout of the game, Duren drained a deep three from the left wing to give La Salle a one-point lead, 72-71, with 3:05 showing on the clock.

After a missed three-point attempt from the Rebels’ demonstrative guard, Marshall Henderson, 6’9 Senior center Reginald Buckner grabbed the offensive rebound and laid it back in, handing the lead back to Ole Miss. A free throw by Ladarius White 45 seconds later gave the Rebels a two-point advantage with 1:58 remaining.

Tyrone Garland was fouled on the following possession, sending him to the free-throw line for a one-and-one opportunity, and a chance to tie the game. Garland, however, missed the front end, Reginald Buckner grabbed the rebound, and the Rebels called timeout still leading, 74-72, with 1:23 left in the game.

When play resumed, Ole Miss guard Jarvis Summers missed a three-pointer, and Duren was fouled while hauling in the rebound. With the Explorers now in the double bonus, Duren coolly stepped to the line and drained both free throws to tie the game at 74 with 1:07 left.

Following a badly missed pull-up jumper by the Rebels’ Ladarius White on the next trip down the court, Ole Miss was able to retain possession and called timeout with 12 seconds left on the shot clock.

When the teams returned, Marshall Henderson, as he does more often than not, forced up a shot that did not hit the rim, and a shot-clock violation was called, turning the ball back over to the Explorers with 32 seconds remaining in the game, and Tyrone Garland took it from there.

While Galloway guarded Henderson for much of the game, La Salle head coach John Giannini put Sam Mills on him with about five minutes remaining, and Mills came through.

“What a great win,” Giannini said. “We couldn’t be more proud. We talked all week about the great La Salle tradition. When you come in, you want to bring that back. These guys are doing it right before our eyes.”

Ramon Galloway shot 8-for-13 from the field and 6-for-10 from three for a game-high 24 points. Tyreek Duren added 19, including the two critical free throws he made at the 1:07 mark of the second half that tied the game at 74, helping to setup Garland’s heroics.

A week ago, the Explorers had lost back-to-back games to St. Louis and Butler, two missed opportunities at solidifying their resume, and were sweating it out on Selection Sunday, hoping their name would appear on the bracket. Now they’re one of 16 teams still standing.

“We’re on the map,” 1990 National Player of the Year and Big 5 legend Lionel Simmons said after the game in the La Salle locker room. “We’re back. We’re big time now.”

In five days in two states, La Salle has beaten three teams with a combined 75-25 record.

“The Sweet 16, there’s nothing better,” Duren said. “Except the Final Four. And winning it all. We’re just surviving and advancing as far as we can.”

This Explorers squad has represented the city of Philadelphia in this year’s NCAA Tournament like only the Big 5 can. For those who weren’t aware of the toughness and heart that Philly guards bring to the table, they certainly are now.

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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.