La Salle’s season opening two-point win over Towson was a statement about how resilient and tough this year’s Explorers team will play. Despite beginning the game with a rotation of seven scholarship players, La Salle never backed down. Even when two starters, Amar Stukes and Rohan Brown, fouled out with more than eight minutes left in the game, La Salle was able to edge out Towson in the waning moments of the game to start their season with a big win. La Salle head coach John Giannini called the win, “One of the most gritty, hard-nose wins I’ve had in my career dating back to 1989.”
Jordan Price and Johnnie Shuler were La Salle’s players of the game. Price showed off his natural inclination to “get buckets” with 27 points on 50% 3-point shooting and 82% from the free throw line along with only one turnover. Explorer fans have to be excited for Price’s potential to produce solid, efficient games like this.
For a 5-foot-11 player, Shuler was able to notch 5 rebounds, didn’t turn the ball over at all, and was able to only pick up two personal fouls in the entire 40 minutes of the game. Additionally, with the match tied, Shuler’s savvy defensive play earned him a steal and a transition bucket with under a minute in the game. It was as clutch of a play as they come. Also impressive was his ability to ice the game by hitting three of his final four free throws. Those high-pressure free throws are often difficult for even the best of scorers, but Shuler was able to get the job done. The entire Explorer team did a great job at the free-throw line against Towson, making 25 of their 30 free throws attempts.
The debut of freshman forward Yevgen Sakhniuk was also impressive. He played only 15 minutes of the contest but scored 11 points and went a perfect 5-5 from the field. Sakhniuk showed great discipline late in the game when he already garnered four personal fouls and had to play the final eight minutes without picking up another one. If Sakhniuk can stay out of foul trouble, his interior-scoring prowess will get him many frontcourt minutes for the Explorers this season.
For the La Salle Explorers, this win means that they can overcome the kind of adversities that occur over the course of a season and find a way to get a tough win. Injuries to Tony Washington and Karl Harris forced coach G to go with a seven-man rotation. And when Stukes and Brown both fouled out, only five scholarship players were available for Coach G. Despite the adversity they faced, the Explorers played a solid game, turning the ball over only eight times and shooting 84% on free throws. What kept the game close for Towson was their advantage on the boards, getting 45 total rebounds compared to La Salle’s 32. In his postgame media address, coach G said, “We will be a dramatically better team in the near future.” When projected starting forward Tony Washington recovers and is back on the court for coach G, this size disadvantage for La Salle will be dissipated and we should expect the Explorers to become more competent with their work on the boards.
The Explorers next game is in Philadelphia against the Rider Broncos on Tuesday, November 17. La Salle will look build upon a win that some are calling, “One of the greatest wins in La Salle’s history.” If La Salle continues to show the kind of toughness, resiliency, and timely play making, they can prove themselves to be a real contender in the Atlantic 10 conference.
PhotoL Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
-Junior forward B.J. Johnson will declare for the NBA Draft but will not sign with an agent