DAYTON, Ohio – One hot guard is awfully handy at NCAA tournament time. Four? Pretty much unbeatable.
Tyrone Garland led La Salle’s guard-driven offense with 22 points, and the Explorers wrapped up the NCAA tournament’s First Four by getting the better of an old-fashioned shootout, beating Boise State 80-71 on Wednesday night.
It was a notable moment for the 13th-seeded Explorers (22-9), who hadn’t even been in the tournament for 21 years. Now, they head to Kansas City to play fourth-seeded Kansas State on Friday.
And it’ll be a nostalgic trip back to the city where they won the national title 59 years ago by beating Bradley in the title game.
Kansas City? Here they come.
“Unbelievable tradition here,” coach John Giannini said. “I think people have tended to have forgotten what a basketball power La Salle was for over four decades. So it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal to re-establish that. It’s a big deal for people who attended La Salle and love La Salle, who had great basketball, and certainly they’ve longed for that.”
It’ll be tough to play any better on offense than they did on Wednesday night.
Ramon Galloway, one of the Atlantic 10’s top scorers, added 21 points in a fast-paced offense that did pretty much whatever it wanted. The Explorers shot a season-high 63 percent from the field for the game and hit 16 of 22 shots in the second half.
Garland went 9 of 11 from the field – his best shooting game of the season – and the Explorers were 11 of 21 behind the 3-point arc.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Garland said. “When I came here, coach told me I could help him win games and get him to the next step.”
Thirteenth-seeded Boise State (21-11) got its first at-large bid and was looking for the first NCAA tournament win in its history. The Broncos were up to it in a game of try-to-top-this shooting, falling to 0-6 in tournament history.
Anthony Drmic had a game-high 28 points for the Broncos, who shot 49 percent but trailed most of the way.
“We didn’t shoot the ball that bad,” Drmic said. “Give them credit. But it starts with defense. We didn’t come to play defense. We couldn’t stop them driving, so I’m not very happy with that.”
La Salle is in the tourney for the first time since 1992.
Giannini led the Explorers to back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1988-90. His first coaching appearance in the NCAA tournament completed the rebuilding.
His guards led the way, as they have all the way.
“I recruited Ty really, really hard out of high school, and I told him, ‘This is why I chased you all over the place, to win NCAA tournament games and see if you could be a great player,”’ Giannini said. “I knew he could do it.”