PHILADELPHIA– Coming into their game against a Davidson team that was 20-7 and 11-3 in the A-10, La Salle were already considered to be the underdogs (+5.5 for all you gamblers out there).
It didn’t help that they would be without their leading scorer in G Pookie Powell as he suffered a lower body injury in practice the day before (his status day-to-day).
That didn’t matter one bit as La Salle cruised to an 79-69 victory over Davidson at Tom Gola Arena on Wednesday night.
“I thought we came out today just to make a point to each other that we can get back to playing our basketball.” La Salle head coach Ashley Howard said.
Without their leading scorer, it was up to veteran guards Traci Carter and Isiah Deas to match the 16.2 ppg load that Powell was averaging.
Turns out they did much more than matched it, they surpassed it. Deas finished with a game-high 25 points and Carter finished with 24 points on 9-11 shooting and 4-4 from deep. Both those numbers are career-highs.
“I just took what they gave me,” Carter said. “Read the floor, looked for my teammates, just took what they gave me.”
“When Pookie was out there he would draw so much attention so it made my job a lot easier just being ready to catch and shoot,” Deas said. “But with him being out today I had to be more aggressive looking for my shot and getting to the open spots on the floor.”
Deas was averaging 11.9 ppg prior to Wednesday night’s affair while Carter, more known as a pass-first guard in this offense, averaged 5.5 ppg.
The Explorers shot the ball at a 48 percent clip as well as going 13-28 from deep (46 percent)
“We’ve done a good job of setting the tone for most of the games that we’ve had in conference,” Howard said. “But our whole thing has been about playing 40 minutes for us and I’m just glad our guys were not only able to set the tone from the start but maintain it for 40 minutes.”
The A-10 season has been extremely streaky for La Salle. After a road win at UMass to start things off, the Explorers then lost four straight. After that they went on to win four straight. The Explorers then dropped one only to get it right back with a win the following game against Duquesne. After that, they dropped three straight and now snapped the streak with a win against Davidson.
“I felt like those guys had to prove to themselves they can battle that way for each other,” Howard said. “I’ve been trying to get these guys to understand that if we play harder than our opponent every night, that’s going to be our best chance to give ourselves an opportunity to win.”
The win improves the Explorers to 9-18 and 7-8 in the A10. Up next for La Salle are two road games at Saint Joseph’s on March 2 and Dayton on March 6, and then the home finale against Fordham.
If the Explorers can bring the hot shooting and the energy they brought in their game against one of the top teams in the league for the rest of the way, they could be primed for a run in the A-10 Tournament in Brooklyn two weeks from now.
“We had a moment after the Richmond game where we said ‘are we committed to getting better or not’,” Howard said. “Obviously we had a three-game skid and how we’re going to battle out of that skid, we got to come out and give an honest effort against Davidson and that’s what our guys did.”