It can be any player on any given night for La Salle. The Explorers have nine players averaging from 5.6 up to 9.6 points per game. They’ve used 10 different starting lineups in 18 games.
Sometimes it’s a disadvantage to not have a go-to scorer. Other times, it helps that teams have no clue which Explorer to key on until it’s too late — like Wednesday night at Tom Gola Arena.
David Beatty had scored six or fewer points in his last six games, so of course, Saint Louis didn’t have to key on him, right?
Beatty scored a career-high 22 points off the bench as La Salle (8-10, 5-6 Atlantic 10) upset the Billikens, 82-75.
“It was super fun because our energy from our bench was fantastic,” Beatty said. “My teammates found me in the right position to score, so I’m grateful for that.”
The senior guard started the first 14 games. His struggles resulted in a reserve role where he didn’t play more than 20 minutes in the last five games, and his scoring average fell to 7.4.
None of that mattered against the Billikens (7-3, 0-2). Beatty gave a teaser in the first half with seven points. It was his second-half performance that changed the game.
Saint Louis led most of the first half, but the Explorers rode an 8-0 run to a 36-32 halftime lead. The Billikens gained their first second-half lead at 49-48 when Gibson Jimerson knocked down a wide-open three.
Then, it was time for the Beatty show. The Billikens traded two baskets with Beatty before La Salle pulled off a pair of defensive stops. Beatty scored 11 straight points and the Explorers’ lead grew to five. Clifton Moore hit a three on the next possession to cap a 9-0 run midway through the second half.
Beatty shot 8-for-15 and made 4-of-5 threes. Sherif Kenney iced the game down the stretch and made 13 of his 15 free throws en route to 17 points, Jack Clark added 15 and Moore had 11. The Explorers shot 49% overall and 8-of-19 on three-pointers. They held the Billikens to 21% shooting on threes (4-for-19) and 40% overall.
“We got the stops that we needed, we made the free throws late that we needed, and those are the things that you have to do against the best teams in the most difficult situations to close out wins,” head coach Ashley Howard said.
La Salle continues to be the A-10 bully-beaters. It has now beaten each of the A-10 preseason poll’s top three teams (Richmond, Saint Louis, Dayton), and it’s not as if those schools are playing below expectations.
Two of those three wins have come after the Explorers lost multiple games by double-digits. That’s probably one of the hardest statistics to make sense of, but Wednesday’s performance was right on cue.
“We haven’t played our best basketball yet,” Howard said. “We still have some more games where we can continue to play and challenge ourselves to get better.”
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