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Galloway, La Salle closing in on the NCAA Tournament

February 25, 2013 Columns No Comments

SOUTH KINGSTON, R.I. – When Ramon Galloway gets going, he can be fun to watch unless you’re on the other team. While he has a couple of teammates that can be like that as well, the La Salle senior guard stands out among them. While he didn’t do that on Sunday to the level he has often this season, he was able to spur his team to a 72-65 win at Rhode Island by leading a big stretch when he came alive.

Teammate Tyreek Duren, who led the way with 21 points, said Galloway didn’t feel good about his performance but knows how good he has often been for this team.

“We were just in the locker room talking about it,” said the junior point guard. “I told him, I don’t care whatever you do, when you shoot a three, I don’t care where it’s from, every time I think it’s going in. That’s how much confidence I have in him.”

Galloway can make fans and coaches a bit nervous at times as he might be compared to the basketball equivalent of a free swinger in baseball. He will take and often make shots from well behind the arc, and at times you have to live with it. The Explorers have been living quite well with it this year, as Galloway should get consideration for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year as he is shooting 42 percent from deep on the season and leads the team in scoring and assists. The latter stat is noteworthy as well in that he isn’t simply a gunner; in fact, the Explorers are 6-1 when he has five assists or more. He does this on a team with a fine floor leader in Duren, a three-year starter at the point.

Passing the ball was a key on Sunday, as head coach John Giannini felt they didn’t do that very well in the first half. The Explorers went into the locker room down 30-27 as a result, and early in the second half they fell behind 37-30. That’s when Galloway got going and the Explorers started sharing the ball better.

“In the first half, I thought the problem was not sharing the ball,” said Giannini. “We just passed the ball much better in the second half, and when we pass the ball, we’re an awfully good team.”

Duren keyed a 7-0 run to tie it at 37, then Galloway scored seven unanswered points as part of a 10-0 run that gave them the lead for good. Rhode Island never got closer than six the rest of the way.

The Explorers are very much a guard-oriented team, with Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack being the only true post players who see minutes. Wright has been an X-factor for this team, and on Sunday he had a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds. They often play four guards, and Giannini gives them the freedom to make plays. Duren and Galloway have done a lot of that, and Virginia Tech transfer Tyrone Garland is now doing that as well. Garland quietly came up big on Sunday with 14 points and six assists with no turnovers, and he’s boosted what was already a strong and deep backcourt.

“(Garland) is real comfortable, and I think another thing about that is Coach lets us open it up,” said Duren. “He gives us freedom. We don’t run many plays. We just try to do everything from our guards, he tells us to just make plays. By the time his second or third game came, he looked like he has been there for a while.”

La Salle appears to be in a good position for the NCAA Tournament. They are 19-7 overall and 9-4 in the Atlantic 10 after Sunday, including wins over Villanova, Northeastern (road), Butler and VCU (road). They have lost to Central Connecticut State, but that’s the only bad loss. They have managed to avoid losing consecutive games, a focus Giannini has had with this veteran team.

“We obviously want to get to the NCAA Tournament,” said the La Salle mentor. “We thought our two most important goals that would help us get there would be, one to win the Big Five, which we came up tied and a game short of an outright title, and secondly, it was not to lose two games in a row. We came close on the Big Five goal, and we still have our goal of never having a losing streak intact.”

The Explorers finish up with home games against Duquesne and George Washington before a trip to Saint Louis leads into the Atlantic 10 Tournament. They’re closing in on the big goal, but not finished yet. Giannini has had a couple of chances to break through during his nine seasons at the school, including the 2009-10 season when injuries decimated a veteran team that had developed significantly together. He’s not about to have his team let up with the goal seemingly in plain sight.

“It’s definitely getting closer and closer, but we still can’t let up,” said Duren. “We’ve still got a lot of games to play, still got the A-10 Tournament. We have to keep winning and keep that same mindset.”

If Galloway and Duren get going like they did on Sunday, they should be able to do that. It will also be fun for the Explorers and their fans to watch Galloway do it like he has for much of the season, and more people around the country might get a chance to witness it as well.

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