Wichita State didn’t have a chance to sneak up on people this season due to their success the year before. They still proceed to route favored Pittsburg in the first round and then continued to roll I their upset of Number 1 seed Gonzaga. La Salle is providing further evidence that the Atlantic 10 is becoming one of the stronger conferences in the country. They have had 2 incredibly close games and perhaps the experience they gained playing their tough schedule in conference had something to do with it.
After squeezing out a 2nd round win vs. Kansas State, La Salle faced off with Ole Miss in a matchup featuring a 12 and a 13 seed. Tyrone Garland was the hero when he scored on a drive to the hoop with two seconds left to give his team a 76-74 victory. They were lead in scoring and rebounding by Ramon Galloway who had 24 points and 4 rebounds. La Salle is not a big team; however they were able to spread Ole Miss out and attack from their four guard alignment. Galloway is the lone senior in the lineup showing that they are not only built for the present but for the future as well
Wichita State is one of the best defensive teams left in the tournament. They an aggressive suffocating style that can drive teams crazy. Their team motto is “play angry” and that is certainly what they do. Their defense rotates as well as any team in the country, often taking away the most logical pass for the opposition. Tough defense has been a staple of most successful teams and will work in favor of Wichita State going forward. They defeated top seeded Gonzaga 76-70 to advance. Cleanthony Early had 16 points and 7 rebounds. Ron Baker also had 16 in a strong performance. Wichita State connected on 5 consecutive three pointers down the stretch to win the game and advance to the sweet 16. Gonzaga made several runs but none of them were able to get within 5 points as they were held at bay as the last few minutes of the game became a foul shooting contest. It was a big win for the program and sets up an interesting matchup in the round of 16.
Both teams like to take the 3 point shot as evidenced by the 51 attempts between the two teams in the last round. The key will be which team can continue to shoot successfully from behind the line. Both teams are evenly matched while Wichita State is the bigger team. La Salle will need to control the backboards despite their size mismatch while Wichita State will have to have the answers for the tough zone defense that La Salle presents.
In the end shooting and guard play will decide this game like it will for the majority of basketball games. Wichita State is a tough out and La Salle has proven to be a force this March. It should be a close one so you should go with the points.
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