In a battle of teams that entered Wednesday night with a total of three conference wins, La Salle defeated Fordham, 58-49, at Tom Gola Arena.
The Explorers (12-13, 3-10 Atlantic 10) started a different lineup for the fifth consecutive game. Scott Spencer is the only player who has started every game, and he was the only Explorer to score in the first eight minutes.
Fordham and La Salle both got off to slow starts. The Explorers found their offense during a 10-0 run that spanned halftime, and never trailed again.
The Rams (7-18, 1-12) got back within three on a Ty Rose jumper with 11:40 left in the second half, but La Salle responded with an 11-2 run to help seal the win.
Both teams struggled offensively. La Salle shot 31.8% in the first half, and Fordham was 33%. The biggest difference in the second half was La Salle’s three-point shooting. The Explorers made six of their 14 three-point attempts in the second half. Fordham shot 4-for-24 from three.
La Salle’s Christian Ray had started two of 24 games before Wednesday night. His third start was his best. Ray knocked down back-to-back threes midway through the second half to create a six-point cushion. Ray finished with six points and had a career-high four offensive rebounds. He was also a team-best plus-17 in 29 minutes.
David Beatty and Ed Croswell led the Explorers with 12 points apiece. Josh Colon led Fordham with 14 points.
“Regardless of what Fordham’s record is, that team plays extremely hard,” La Salle coach Ashley Howard said. “[Fordham’s] got the best defensive team by the numbers in our league.”
“I’m looking for guys that are ready to set the tone," Howard said of his lineup changes. “I think when we set the tone the right way it gives our team energy, and I’m proud of the way the group started the game today.”
″I told [Ray], ‘Dude, you have to be the guy that sets the tone for us,’ " Howard said. “I give Christian credit. There’s not a harder-working kid on our team.”
La Salle’s shooting wasn’t good, but it never impacted the defense. The Explorers’ switch-heavy defense took Fordham out of its offense and forced contested one-on-one shots. Fordham shot 35.9% in the game.
Beatty looked like he embraced the sixth-man role. He came off the bench aggressively, launching transition threes and contested jumpers, but his shots weren’t falling in the first half. The junior guard didn’t stop shooting and was rewarded in the second half.
La Salle extended its winning streak over the Rams to eight games. Fordham hasn’t beaten the Explorers since 2016.