La Salle guard Tyreek Duren (3) averages 14.4 points and 2.9 rebounds. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)Thursday’s game appears to be tilted to the team that can make the other bend to its style of play. Will La Salle’s four-guard lineup force Wichita State to play small and lessen its size advantage? Can WSU control the game with rebounding and scoring in the lane?
Two assistant coaches, who requested anonymity, from Atlantic 10 schools help us break down the Explorers. We will call them Coach A and Coach B.
“What really makes them tick is that they play four guards for pretty much the whole game,” A said. “They can all shoot, pass and dribble, putting pressure on the defense. They don’t run a ton of sets. It’s more about spacing and letting talented guards attack the paint.”
WSU’s No. 1 job will be stopping that penetration. The Explorers will drive and try to score, or pass the ball out to shooters. They will present three, and often four, players who can drive to score or make three-pointers.
“Everybody has one or two guys who, defensively, can contain ball-handlers,” A said. “Hardly anybody has three or four guys who can contain penetration.”
La Salle will use a few ball screens. Most of its offense comes from spacing and spreading out the defense.
“You’ve got to do a great job of one-on-one defense, helping on penetration and recovering to the man you just left, closing out on shooters” Coach B said. “They’re very athletic and can they can play up-tempo. In the halfcourt, they’re good because they can space you out. They can kill the clock, run it down to to 10 seconds and space you out.”
Guard Ramon Galloway averages 17.4 points, 4. 5 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Coach A calls him a future NBA player.
“He is a gamer, tough kid,” A said. “He can shoot, pass and dribble. He’s got a low-release three-point shot, but he makes shots.”
Coach B sees Tyreek Duren, who averages 14.4 points and 3.2 assists, as the leader on the floor. Duren scored 19 points in the third-round win over Mississippi.
“He makes them go,” B said. “Solid. He can shoot it. Good defense. He’s a calming influence.”
Sophomore forward Jerrell Wright averages 10.7 points and scored a career-high 21 in the second-round win over Kansas State. With an injury to reserve center Steve Zack, Wright is La Salle’s only experienced big man.
” Wright is one of the more underrated forwards in the (Atlantic 10),” A said. “He’s a big-time rebounder. They run a lot of sets to get him a post touch. He’s got good hands and catches a lot interior dish-offs.”
The Explorers will be difficult to scout, because much of what they do is just playing basketball and improvising by the guards. That doesn’t mean they are playing out of control.
“They don’t try to over-complicate things,” Coach A said. “These guys just prove to me that you can play four good players together and put a ton of pressure on the defense.”
La Salle will mostly play man-to-man defense in the half court. When they pressure, they can force turnovers.
“They can pressure the ball, play in passing lanes and get steals,” Coach B said. “They’re an athletic team and when they force turnovers they can convert those turnovers into points.”
The Explorers, especially with Zack injured, are not a big team. Zack, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, has missed the past six games with a sprained foot. They also aren’t deep. In the past 10 games, they play a seven-man rotation with Galloway, Duren and Sam Mills playing 30 or more minutes. They’re used to playing that way, our coaches say, and do a good job of avoiding foul trouble.
The size issue is harder for the Explorers to cover up. They start four players under 6-5 and guard Tyrone Garland, who made the game-winner against Mississippi, plays starter’s minutes off the bench. Freshman forward Rohan Brown (6-6) averages 8.4 minutes off the bench.
“You can attack them down low, beat them up on the glass a little” Coach B said. “You’ve got to contain their penetration and make them make contested jump shots.”