- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
DAYTON, Ohio -- Quick reaction to La Salle's 80-71 victory over Boise State on Wednesday:
Overview: If the logistics of La Salle's first NCAA tournament berth in 21 years felt a little bit like an audition for the big show, its fans can rest easy. La Salle may be sticking around awhile.
Thanks to a balanced and efficient effort -- including a combined 20-of-25 shooting from supporting players Jerrell Wright, Sam Mills and Tyrone Garland, and an anchor performance from star senior guard Ramon Galloway -- La Salle closed the 2013 First Four by bouncing the fellow 13th-seeded Broncos.
The difference between the two teams wasn't hard to notice: La Salle did what it wanted to on the offensive end, got to the spots it wished to obtain, and knocked down the shots once there. All told, the Explorers finished 31-of-49 from the field; Boise State couldn't find a stop to save its (tournament) life.
Turning point: In a season that has in many ways been defined by tidal comebacks -- in a sport that makes its bacon on insanity -- perhaps the most striking thing about La Salle's win was how ho-hum it felt throughout. The Explorers controlled the game early, and fended off most Boise mini runs, including a late 90-second stretch that saw them increase their lead from 62-54 to 70-58 with two quick 3-pointers and a Wright dunk.
Boise State didn't go down without a scrap: Guard Derrick Marks cut the La Salle lead to just six with 1:51 remaining, and D.J. Peterson's push-off loose-ball foul on the ensuing offensive possession put Boise center Kenny Buckner on the line to shoot a one-and-one. But Buckner missed, Garland hit two, and when a full-court pass to Galloway broke Boise's press, that was that.
Key player: There wasn't an Explorer on the floor who played poorly, at least on the offensive end, but Garland's 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting was not only a huge boost but a huge surprise. Garland has always looked talented this season -- there aren't many defenders he can't break down off the dribble -- but he has been maddeningly inconsistent. On Wednesday night, he was peerless.
Key stat: Let's keep it simple: The Explorers finished 63.3 percent from the field overall and 52.4 percent on their 21 3-point shots, and when a team plays that well on offense -- or, conversely, when a team plays that poorly on defense -- little further explanation is required.
What's next: La Salle (22-9) moves on to Friday's brutally tough "second round" game against No. 4 seed Kansas State in Kansas City, Mo. Boise State finishes a good season -- which included a victory at Creighton and a creditable performance in a very good Mountain West -- 21-11.