The La Salle Explorers had a great opportunity to notch their fifth win of the season Saturday afternoon against a winless Drexel team in front of their home crowd. However, the Explorers struggled in many important facets of the game, which resulted in a 66-53 Drexel win.
For the Drexel Dragons, the player of the game was definitely Tavon Allen. Offensively, Allen was extraordinarily efficient, scoring 25 points on 7-11 shooting from the field, 3-3 from the 3 point arc, and 8-8 from the free throw line. Allen’s 3-point proficiency was important for Drexel, as he was the only Dragon to make a 3-point shot for the entire game. It wasn’t just the offense that stood out for Tavon Allen in this game. He also did a formidable job of covering La Salle’s top scorer in Jordan Price, holding him to 19 points on 36% shooting from the field and forcing Price to commit 5 turnovers.
When Jordan Price was not on his “A” game, La Salle needed Johnnie Shuler or Cleon Roberts to carry the load offensively. Against Drexel, Shuler was not able to produce the kind of day that was needed for them to be victorious, scoring 7 points on a 1-6 shooting night. Roberts additionally struggled, putting up 4 turnovers and shooting 4-10.
Three issues that hampered La Salle was their high number of turnovers (17), getting out rebounded 41-32, and uncharacteristic weak free throw shooting (55.6%).
The turnover problem needs to be addressed by head coach Dr. John Giannini. Heading into Saturday's game, La Salle already was averaging 13 turnovers a game. It is logical to think that coach G would have made keeping possession of the ball a priority against Drexel. Whether it was a lack of focus, or execution, the Explorers did not make the most out of their possessions, leading to 17 team turnovers.
Another issue that the Explorers had on Saturday was getting outrebounded 41-32 by the Drexel Dragons. In the postgame press conference coach G said, “I think Drexel is hard to score on, I think they’re big.” To combat Drexel’s size, coach G played sophomore-forward Tony Washington a season-high 25 minutes. The addition of Washington was supposed to help the Explorers from being outmatched on the boards, but there was not much Washington could do apart from his 4 total rebounds.
It is curious as to why coach G does not give more frontcourt time to sophomore Yevgen Sakhniuk, who played only 5 minutes on Saturday. Although he is still adjusting to the college game, it looks like Sakhniuk is a bit more competent offensively than both Tony Washington and Rohan Brown. Coach G deems Washington’s athleticism and Brown’s experience as more valuable to the rotation that what Sakhniuk can provide offensively. But, if the Explorers continue to struggle on the boards, coach G should consider giving Sakhniuk more minutes in the rotation.
The third issue the Explorers had on Saturday against Drexel was their poor free throw shooting. On the season, La Salle was shooting 76.8% from the line before Saturday’s game, good enough for 18th place in NCAA Division 1. On Saturday, La Salle shot 55.6% on their free throws. Either the performance against Drexel performance was a bit of a fluke or the Explorer's shooting is starting to plateau after starting out so hot and will begin to replicate last year’s number of 69.4% from the line. Either way, expect coach G needs to get his guys refocused this week for a better free throw shooting game their next outing.
The Explorers have now lost two games in a row and three of their last four games heading into their next City 6 matchup against Villanova. If La Salle has any prayer of challenging one of the nation’s elite college basketball programs, they will need to make the most of their possessions by taking care of the ball, competing on the glass, and regaining their exceptional free throw shooting. If La Salle can do all of this and continue to see good games from both Jordan Price and Johnnie Shuler, they have what it takes to compete in this game. However, if La Salle’s execution against Villanova mirrors their game against Drexel, the Explorers will be in for a long game.
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