Virginia Commonwealth (15-4) at La Salle (11-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 25, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Tom Gola Arena (3,400) -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: VCU 9-0, La Salle 7-1. Away Record: VCU 3-2, La Salle 2-4. Neutral Record: VCU 3-2, La Salle 2-2. Conference Record: VCU 3-1, La Salle 3-1. Series Record: Virginia Commonwealth leads, 3-1.
GAME NOTES: La Salle has been able to bounce back nicely following defeats in recent years, and the Explorers will need to be up to the task this afternoon when they host the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth at Tom Gola Arena in Atlantic 10 Conference action.
The Explorers are 12-2 since the beginning of the 2012-13 season when coming off a defeat. They suffered a 66-51 beating at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday night. Tyreek Duren led La Salle with 16 points while Tyrone Garland added 14, as the Explorers had their five-game win streak snapped. Head coach Dr. John Giannini called it "one of our worst performances of the year" and rightfully so, as the Explorers shot just 26.7 percent from the field in the second half. The loss was the first in league play for the Explorers, who allowed the Bonnies to make 46.2 percent of their field goal tries after halftime.
On the positive side, La Salle has won 16 of its last 18 at Tom Gola Arena, including 11 of 12 versus A-10 foes. Their lone loss at Gola this season came in double-overtime to Manhattan in the season opener. Steve Zack has been a big reason for La Salle's success, as the 6-foot-11 junior center paces the conference with ten double-doubles and ranks fifth nationally in that category as well. Zack (9.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg) also has 36 blocks on the season. Leading the way offensively are Duren (14.2 ppg), Garland (13.9 ppg) and Jerrell Wright (12.4 ppg). Wright is among the top-10 in the conference in shooting 57.7 percent from the field.
Despite their combined 26-11 record, VCU and La Salle are both struggling from the floor as they are 11th and 12th, respectively, in the conference in field goal percentage. The Rams are making just 42.3 percent and the Explorers 42 percent. VCU, though, is third in scoring at 75.6 ppg, and is tops with 12.4 steals per outing.
The Rams have won two in a row and seven of their last eight games. They're coming off an 80-66 triumph at Dayton on Wednesday. Juvonte Reddic tallied 18 points and seven rebounds. Briante Weber also scored 18 points, which he accompanied with five assists and three steals. Treveon Graham added 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting from the floor.
Graham (15.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Reddic (11.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg), Melvin Johnson (10.4 ppg), Rob Brandenburg (9.7 ppg) and Weber (9.4 ppg) are leading the way for the Rams, who essentially need to get to the magic number of 70 to win today's game. VCU is 15-0 when holding its opposition under 70 points, while La Salle is 10-2 when hitting at least that number, but just 1-5 when tallying less than 70. Miscues will also play a big part in the outcome, as VCU leads the country in turnovers forced per game (20.1).
Expect this to be a tight contest, but history has shown the Explorers have been able to rebound from defeats under Giannini. The game for La Salle at St. Bonaventure came in the middle of a tight win over Big 5 rival Temple and this game against a team that is off to a fast start this season. If the Explorers can right the ship offensively and not commit too many turnovers, they should come out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: La Salle 72, VCU 68
01/25 10:35:59 ET