La Salle looks to stay hot Wednesday at VCU

Matt Leon
January 08, 2019 - 10:43 am
La Salle junior guard/forward Saul Phiri

La Salle University Athletics

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The La Salle Explorers will face a tough test on Wednesday night as they travel down to Richmond, Virginia, to visit VCU in an Atlantic 10 clash.

Since starting the season 0-10, the Explorers have won three in a row, including their A-10 opener on Saturday as they traveled up to Amherst and beat UMass, 69-60.

"I felt like our guys really utilized our time off on break to really hone in on our defensive concepts and then in preparation for UMass, just getting locked into the scouting report and our guys executed to a T on Saturday," La Salle head coach Ashley Howard said. "I'm proud of them."

Howard talks about what has allowed La Salle to turn things around since that really rough start.

"I think it's a combination of our guys understanding our system, getting a better feel for each other," he said. "We have a lot of new pieces that we were trying to get all on the same page and it takes time. It doesn't come overnight. The most important thing is our guys have maintained a positive attitude all the way through. And it's given us the ability to develop confidence. And it's given our guys the humility to understand: 'You know what? We've got to do this together.' That's where the X's and O's and the endgame execution comes in, and they've improved as the season's gone on."

In the win over UMass, La Salle got a big game from junior Saul Phiri, who finished with a game high 20 points while adding six rebounds and four steals.

"Saul gives us a guy that is the epitome of versatility," Howard said. "He can defend multiple positions and on the offensive end, he can play multiple positions. He can play any position from point guard to power forward for us to be honest. So he's a guy that's extremely valuable for us. We're happy to have him in the lineup, and he's been a godsend for our team so far."

The Explorers will face a VCU team on Wednesday night that is 10-4 (1-0 A-10) and riding a three-game winning streak.

"They just have athletes all across the board," Howard said of the Rams. "From point guard to center, all of their players are great athletes for their position. So it's a game where they want to speed the pace up. Obviously, they have their 'havoc' defense that is really effective for them, where they pressure you and they do a lot of trapping. So we want to try and combat that with being sound and fundamental on offense where we're being strong with the ball, we're making passes and we're making aggressive but intelligent plays on the offensive end."

Last season, La Salle lost at home to VCU, 80-74.

Wednesday night's game gets underway at 7 p.m.

Follow Matt on Twitter @Mattleon1060.