La Salle Head Coach Ashley Howard sought a Sports Psychologist, Dr. Joe Carr to help the team this year.
During a stretch of games this year, Carr asked Howard “What’s our juice like?”.
“There’s no juice”.
They had to find the juice, starting with the Richmond game in January.
“I told the assistant coaches I don’t care how out of control the bench looks, I just want these guys fired up,” Howard said, “And we did it down there.”
It would lead to an 84-78 upset victory over the preseason favorites and their second upset victory of the season after taking down Dayton in Ohio on January 30.
The Explorers took down another giant, this time at home, by defeating Saint Louis 82-75 on Wednesday night.
“For us, it’s all about just fighting and staying in the game and giving ourselves a chance to be in the game in the second half and I felt like we did that today.” Howard said.
The juice was at a “level 5” as senior guard David Beatty, who scored a career-high 22 points in the win said.
In a season where you’re playing in front of cardboard and empty seats, you have to find a way to manufacture your own energy or as the Explorers program calls it “The juice”, but it’s more than just a gimmick for this team.
“The most important thing is, and I think this has not been talked about enough, we’ve been in the grind,” Howard said. “We haven’t had any COVID pauses knock on wood, this has to be a fun experience, I don’t want this to be for our guys just playing this game, playing that game, parade these guys around, I want these guys to enjoy it.”
“Proud of our team, proud of Dave, great game for him, we talked about it, he’s had his struggles this season, his attitude has been unbelievable, he’s stayed positive, he’s been a great leader and he was rewarded today and was ready to step-up big time for our team, proud of him and proud of our team as we continue to get better, our biggest goal is to just be the best team we can be by the end of the year and I think we’re working in that direction.”
The win over Saint Louis is another wrinkle in trying to figure out this complex team. La Salle has now taken down the top 3 teams in the A10 preseason poll. There have been a handful of good moments this season, but also a series of head-scratchers including losing to UMass twice and George Mason by a combined 68 points.
“We haven’t played our best basketball yet,” Howard said. “We still have a lot of room for growth, we still have some more games where we can continue to play and challenge ourselves to keep getting better, hopefully a game like today gives Dave a shot in the arm that he needed to finish this season out strong and make a push late, hopefully the games that Jared had will continue to keep him in a good place playing well and who knows how good this team can be, I don’t, I don’t think anybody does, I know we’re going to keep fighting and figuring it out at the end.”
“Me and coach tried to tell the team all the time is to believe in ourselves because the talent is there,” Beatty said. “We just need to work hard everyday, come get better in practice and Coach said everything was going to work out for us, as long as we’re the best team we can be at the end of March we’ll be fine.”
For Beatty, a career-high 22 points did the trick and for someone who has been struggling of late, this was a real confidence booster for him.
“My teammates were finding me, staying ready,” Beatty said. “Working out everyday, going to the gym every night, it’s just being confident in yourself and being confident in your teammates and having confidence in your coach, everything is going to work out.”
“Dave has been awesome,” Howard said. “He’s a hard worker, he’s a gym rat, he lives in Gola and I knew the Basketball Gods would reward him at some point, he made a couple of big shots in the first half, he had it going and then in the moment, we got him some looks in the second half and he came up huge and I think that gave our team energy and belief that we could win this game.”
Hopefully for Howard, Beatty, and the rest of the Explorers, the juice can carry over into their next few games, starting off with a trip to Fordham in the Bronx.
The win propels La Salle to a record of 8-10 and 5-6 in conference play.
If they can keep up this kind of effort, against a good team like Saint Louis, the Explorers could continue to play spoiler in the A10’s search of multiple bids in the NCAA Tournament. They head to St. Bonaventure on February 10, Saint Louis again on the 16th, and Richmond on the 20th.
“I think our guys are starting to believe that they can beat anybody in any given night.” Howard said.
“In life it’s going to be a bumpy road but you got to stay the course,” Howard said. “I think that’s been the message with those guys, stay positive, don’t get discouraged, your opportunity’s going to come and when you’re in the moment, you got to be here now in the moment and take advantage of the opportunities.”
It might not show up on the stat-sheet but energy and confidence and a good attitude will go a long way in helping team’s win games. Maybe that’s the secret ingredient to La Salle’s success.
“It was super fun because our energy from our bench was just fantastic and you felt the energy the entire game so it’s didn’t give me anything else to think about but winning the game.” Beatty said.
Or it’s Hawaiian Punch.
“Doc Carr, he’s the one that came up with the juice but I think Derrius Ward, Kyle Thompson and Andrew LaFond, I think those dudes came up with the idea to bring the punch and do all those things during the game so it’s working, we got to keep our juice high.” Howard said.