By Peter Gleason
La Salle trailed Virginia by 20 points yesterday in Brooklyn but furiously rallied like a Black Friday shopper before losing 64-56 in the Barclays Center Classic semifinals.
The Cavaliers (6-0) led big, but the Explorers (4-1) closed the gap to just four with less than two minutes to play in the second half.
Redshirt sophomore Jordan Price scored 10 of his 20 points during a 13-1 run late in the second half to get La Salle back in the game after the Explorers trailed by 20 points with 13:16 to play before going on a 26-10 run to cut the deficit to just four with 1:12 to play.
“We obviously played an outstanding team,” head coach Dr. John Giannini said. “I think that the strength of our team and the weakness was one of the same. We really play with a lot of emotion. Anyone that can see our team play in the second half knows that we played tremendously hard and with a lot of pride. Anyone that was paying attention in the first half can see that we got very frustrated and at times I think we pulled apart a little bit.”
Price had 15 of his 20 points after intermission and is averaging 22.3 ppg. in his last four contests. Junior Khalid Lewis added nine points while senior Steve Zackhad eight points and seven boards.
Price had 12 straight points to start the La Salle comeback, getting the deficit to 53-43 with 6:41 left. Virginia ballooned the lead up to 13 points but La Salle kept chipping away. Two foul shots by senior Jerrell Wright and another free throw by Price made it 58-54, Cavs, with 1:12 remaining. Unfortunately, La Salle would get no closer.
“They’re scrappy,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “They didn’t lay down. A lot of teams if you get them down 20, 18…a lot of teams will kind of pack it in. That says a lot, and it’s also a tremendous learning experience for us.”
Virginia saw its big lead dwindle as Justin Anderson, Anthony Gill, Darion Atkins, Mike Tobey, and London Perrantes all got into foul trouble in the second half. At one point, Perrantes was called for a foul and assessed a technical for some post-play jawing.
“London…is very collected. That’s been his strength for us as a freshman last year.” Bennett said. “He wasn’t himself out there, and it will be a tremendous learning experience…for us, for him, and we’ll grow from it.”
In the final minute, Brogdon sank two free throws before the Cavaliers made back-to-back defensive stops that ended with dunks from Anderson and Tobey to ice the game.
The Cavaliers jumped out to a big lead early in the game, controlling pace while keeping the Explorers off the scoreboard for the first 6½ minutes. Virginia held La Salle to 19 first-half points, the seventh time that Cavaliers have kept an opponent under 20 points in a half, and led 37-19 at the break.
“Virginia frustrated us,” said Giannini, whose team was held to 40 percent shooting. “They’re awfully good…as good as our previous opponents were, and as many good players as we have, I just don’t think you can simulate playing against Virginia’s defense.”
The Cavaliers’ offense stagnated after halftime, allowing the Explorers to get back in the game. La Salle’s Jordan Price scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half.
“I think it’s just a learning process for us,” said Gill, who notched a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. “We didn’t finish the game the way we wanted to. We had problems with the switching in the second half.”
Anderson, who had led the team in scoring in all of the previous five games, finished with eight points, one block and one steal. In one highlight reel play, Anderson stole the ball, dribbled behind the back and finished with the one-handed slam.