The change in the La Salle offense over a short period was dramatic. The Explorers ran their offensive sets crisply tonight against Rider. Passes were on time and accurate. The flow was smooth, and everyone benefited.
Three nights after their offense looked lost in a defeat to No. 15 Villanova, the Explorers pretty much scored at will tonight and rolled to a 92-75 victory over the Broncs before a crowd of a few hundred at Tom Gola Arena.
Rodney Green led the offense for the Explorers (5-4) with 19 points, eight assists and eight rebounds while shooting 7 of 9 from the field. Kimmani Barrett chipped in with 16 points.
La Salle shot better than 56 percent from the field for the game. But even more impressive were the Explorers' 26 assists on 32 field goals. They had recorded only nine assists against Villanova.
The Broncs (5-3), who have seven players on their roster with Philadelphia-area ties, were led by Ryan Thompson (Lenape High) with 19 points. Thompson, the younger brother of Sacramento Kings rookie and former Rider star Jason Thompson, scored nine of his points in the final 3 minutes, 21 seconds.
Mike Ringgold, of Roman Catholic, added 16 points for Rider.
The Explorers broke out to a 14-point lead before the game was 10 minutes old. After Rider cut the deficit to six on two occasions in the first half, La Salle used an 8-0 run en route to a 44-34 halftime lead.
The Explorers really turned it on in the second half, eventually extending their margin to 76-56 on Green's layup with 9:14 left to play. Barrett's three-point basket with just over five minutes left inched the advantage up to 21 at 81-60.
La Salle scored only eight points on free throws before sub Brad Cohen drained a three-ball in the final minute. The Explorers did a subpar job in their delay offense and struggled against Rider's effective, albeit late, full-court press. But the damage had been done.
La Salle coach John Giannini spent time Sunday night after his team's 70-59 loss to Villanova lamenting the Explorers' ineffectiveness in running their offense.
He couldn't make the same complaints after watching tonight's first half. The Explorers had 14 assists on their 17 field goals against seven turnovers, and they went into the locker room up by 10.
Green had four assists to go with his game-high nine points. Yves Mekongo Mbala dished out three assists to go with seven points, and Ruben Guillandeaux also contributed three assists. The Explorers finished the half shooting 58.6 percent from the field.
Ringgold led Rider at the half with eight points. Thompson, the Broncs' leading scorer entering the game with a 16.3-point average, was held to six points, and Green's defense limited him to fewer touches than coach Tommy Dempsey would have liked.
The Broncs turned the ball over only five times in the first half but made just 40 percent of their shots.
The Explorers outscored Rider by 9-2 at the start of the second half and took a 53-36 lead on a three-point basket by Barrett with 18 minutes, 17 seconds remaining. They kept their foot on the gas and scored six points on back-to-back possessions - a three-ball by Guillandeaux and a three-point play by Barrett - to boost the lead to 67-49 with 12:05 to play.
La Salle got off to a hot start, sinking eight of its first 13 attempts from the floor and taking a 20-6 lead when Vernon Goodridge slammed home Guillandeaux's alley-oop pass with just under 12 minutes left in the half. The Broncs had just three field goals in the opening 10:44.
Rider finally made a dent in the Explorers' advantage by scoring on seven consecutive possessions later in the half, twice reducing the margin to six points, the second time at 33-27 on a three-point basket by Matt Griffin (St. Joseph's Prep) with 4:08 left until halftime.
But the Explorers ran off eight consecutive points, including a great hustle play by Paul Johnson following his missed free throw that led to a Jerrell Williams dunk, and built their lead back to 41-27 with 2:43 to play.
Rider knocked down a pair of three-balls on its last two possessions, but Guillandeaux's pull-up jumper from the baseline with two seconds to play enabled the Explorers to end the half up by 10.