After trailing by as many as eight points in a sloppy first half, La Salle went into the halftime locker room looking at a two-point deficit against Bucknell yesterday.
In the layup line prior to the second half at Gola Arena, Jerrell Williams kept saying: "We just need to play harder."
He clapped in teammates' faces and repeated, "Just play harder."
Maybe the slow start was the result of a week filled with final exams.
Maybe it was the atmosphere, or lack thereof; yesterday's snow kept the crowd sparse.
Maybe it was the mounting blizzard itself.
Whatever the reason, the Explorers left their lethargy in the locker room.
A dominant second-half performance powered La Salle to a comfortable 83-70 win over Bucknell. The Explorers improved to 7-3 while the Bisons fell to 4-7.
"We came out sluggish and you could see it in guys' faces," Williams said. "We were slow and they were outworking us. We knew there wasn't going to be a big crowd, but we had to play our game."
Indeed, the announced crowd of 1,321 was actually reduced to a handful of brave souls by the weather.
Nevertheless, Rodney Green certainly heard Williams' message. The senior scored six straight points to open the second half. Included in that was a bit of trickery. Inbounding the ball under his own basket, Green threw a pass off the back Bucknell's Bryson Johnson, grabbed it, and threw in an effortless dunk.
"We needed to take the game to another level," said Green, who finished with 22 points. "Coach [John] Giannini always tells me to be aggressive, and that's what I did."
All told, the Explorers converted seven of their first 10 shots to open the second half. A 17-5 run led to a sudden double-digit lead. The Bison would get no closer than eight the rest of the way. La Salle closed out the Bison by making 12 straight free throws.
"Amen to that," Giannini said.
After being outrebounded by two in the first half, the Explorers finished with a 35-24 advantage on the glass. On the defensive end, La Salle held Bucknell to 31 percent shooting in the second half, as opposed to 57 percent in the first.
Williams provided more than just motivational verbiage. The junior finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Kimmani Barrett led La Salle with a game-high 23 points, and freshman Aaric Murray chipped in 12. Yves Mekongo, playing with a severely sprained right wrist, scored eight points.
Notes: Entering the game, Green needed three assists to join Lionel Simmons as the only players in program history to amass 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, and 300 assists. He finished with two. The milestone will have to wait for tomorrow night's trip to Oklahoma State.