Jhamir Brickus dribbles the ball up the court in La Salle’s 75-64 win over the George Washington Colonials. (courtesy of doms.pov)
Nicholas Signoretta, Editor
The La Salle University men’s basketball team is back, baby. After taking off for what seemed like the entire second half of the calendar month of January, the boys in blue and gold had a stellar week that featured not just one, but two wins to stop their freefall into utter irrelevance.
La Salle’s big week began on Wednesday, Feb 1st, with a contest at home in the Tom Gola Arena against the George Washington Colonials (11-11, 5-4). The Explorers opened the game with some strong play, cutting up GW early for a double-digit lead only eight minutes in that ballooned to a 32-18 lead with 4:39 left in the 1st Half. The lead would shrink down to just seven as the scoreboard read 35-28 as the teams entered the locker rooms for some rest and adjustments. The Colonials certainly took the time to change things up, as they opened the 2nd Half with a 17-4 run that saw them secure a 45-39 lead only five minutes into the half. Despite the visitor’s rally, the Explorers would not be deterred as they staged their own 10-0 run to reclaim a 49-45 lead just three minutes after GW completed their run. The teams would spend the next seven minutes trading small leads, until a huge three-ball from Jhamir Brickus ripped the game open with just over four minutes remaining. The Explorers would go on to close the game 75-64 in front of a popping home crowd (there was a decent student attendance due to the celebration of National Girls & Women In Sports Day) to end a painful five-game losing streak that hadn’t seen them win a game since their 78-77 win at the UMass Minutemen on Jan 11th.
Khalil Brantley is cool, calm, and collected from the free-throw line. (courtesy of shotbyscornely)
After La Salle took care of business earlier in the week, a Sunday, Feb 5th, trip to Hawk Hill to face the hated Saint Joseph’s Hawks (5-6, 11-12) at Hagan Arena was on the docket. A loss to society’s least favorite Jesuit university would give the Hawks their first sweep of the Explorers since the 2015-16 season and would also move the Hawks ahead of the Explorers in the overall Philly Big 5 standings for this current season. Needing this win, La Salle again came out playing the better basketball through the game’s opening, securing a 22-11 lead halfway through the 1st Half. Just like the GW game, the Explorers did their best to let that lead bleed away, taking only a 35-30 advantage into the break. Both sides would trade blows in the opening frames of the 2nd Half, with the score finding itself level at 45 all with twelve minutes remaining in the contest. It was here where Josh Nickelberry decided to take over the game, scoring the next eleven La Salle points to give the Explorers a 56-51 lead with 7:30 on the clock. Nickelberry hits three long balls in this period, which helped him pace the Explorers with 16 points on the day, including a 4 of 6 mark from beyond the arc. The Hawks would never be able to shrink the La Salle lead below five for the rest of the contest, as the Explorers combined timely baskets and stellar free throw shooting to ward off any late comeback attempts. The 73-65 win avenged La Salle’s earlier loss to St. Joe’s and brought the Explorers overall record to 10-13 on the season, with a 4-6 mark in A-10 games.
Andrés Marrero locks in on defense against the Saint Joseph’s Hawks. (courtesy of doms.pov)
This upcoming week for La Salle features a trip to Olean, New York, where the Explorers will face off against the Saint Bonaventure Bonnies (13-11, 7-4) on Wednesday, Feb 8th, at 7PM EST. The Bonnies will bring a three-game win streak into the matchup, which includes a 61-58 win at the A-10’s best team, the VCU Rams (18-6, 9-2). After their midweek trip, La Salle returns home to face off against the UMass Minutemen (13-10, 4-7) on Saturday, Feb 11th, at 2PM EST. The Explorers already knocked off the Minutemen 78-77 in Amherst as mentioned earlier in the article, so a sweep here would be huge for future tiebreakers. Both contests will be streamed on ESPN+.