NEW YORK - La Salle coach John Giannini enjoyed his first visit to Madison Square Garden, where he got to walk through the backstage corridors that he remembered from watching
The Song Remains the Same,
the 1976 film about a Led Zeppelin concert here.
But Giannini drew much more pleasure watching the second-half performance of his team, particularly the inside scoring of Jerrell Wright, and a defense that helped the Explorers rally from a 12-point deficit and post a 65-57 victory over Stony Brook in the ECAC Holiday Festival tournament.
The 6-foot-8 Wright made all six of his shots from the floor in the final 20 minutes, when he scored 16 of his 21 points. He tallied six in a 13-2 run after halftime that helped La Salle (5-4) tie the game, then contributed back-to-back baskets in an 8-0 spurt that gave the Explorers the lead for good.
Wright said his coach "told me to be aggressive when I get the ball, don't fade away, just go straight up, and attack the big men."
While Giannini thought Wright "was absolutely tremendous," he'd like him to add another dimension to his game.
"Frankly, sometimes he's too nice," he said. "He's such a nice guy. He's one of the most beautiful people you'll ever meet. And we all know the best big men have a little bit of a mean streak in him. Sometimes we've got to challenge him to get that mean streak out."
Stony Brook (6-4) led 28-16 with 4 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first half and entered the break with a 31-22 advantage after shooting 52 percent from the field. But the Explorers held the Seawolves to 30 percent after halftime.
Steve Zack, who posted his fourth double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, neutralized 6-foot-8 Jameel Warney, Stony Brook's top scorer. Warney went 5 of 6 in the first half but connected on just 1 of 9 attempts in the second, finishing with 15 points.
"Warney is about as good a big guy as we're going to play against, and Steve just really battled him in the second half . . . making his touches really difficult," Giannini said.