KANSAS CITY -- They arrived in town at 4 a.m., less than five hours after the program’s first NCAA tournament win since 1990, some 600 miles away.
They slept until 11:45 a.m. and then it was off to the Sprint Center for interviews and a shootaround and a generous helping of clowning around in the locker room.
They have to be exhausted, but they won’t admit it.
“At this point in time, you don’t have time to be tired or sore,” La Salle guard Ramon Galloway said. “You can’t have any negative energy. It’s all positive from the players and the coaches.”
Less than 20 hours after their 80-71 win over Boise State in Dayton, La Salle was back on the court at the Sprint Center for a shootaround that was little more than a few foul shots and some stretching.
You can’t blame La Salle coach John Giannini for taking it easy on his Explorers.
“Having played last night and flying out at 1:30 in the morning, landing at 4:30 a.m., expending a lot of energy against Boise State, having an early afternoon game tomorrow … we’re going to save our energy,” Giannini said. “We need to save our energy and emotion for Kansas State.
“We have to be careful with our energy levels, being that no one else had to play last night [or] have the travel we did.
“It’s been a whirlwind, but we have to be completely focused on Kansas State.”
La Salle, the No. 13 seed, will face No. 4 seed and quasi-home team Kansas State at 3:10 p.m. Friday in a West Region second-round game.
La Salle, in its first NCAA tournament in 21 years and coming off its first tournament win in 23 years, will be playing just a few miles from Municipal Auditorium, where the Explorers beat Bradley 92-76 on March 20, 1954, to win the program’s only NCAA title.
Winning a play-in game isn’t quite the same, but for a program that’s been out of the national spotlight for two decades, it’s a big deal.
“It means a lot, because La Salle has been off the map for a long time,” said Galloway, La Salle’s leading scorer. “We all wanted to get La Salle back to being a basketball program being mentioned with the top teams in the country, because we absolutely can play with anybody in the country.”
La Salle hasn’t won two games in an NCAA tournament since 1955. Considering that it'll be playing twice in 40 hours four states apart and facing a team that went 27-7, reached the Big 12 final, went 25-1 against teams outside the top-20 and is playing 120 miles from home, this will not be easy.
But you won’t hear anybody in the La Salle locker room complaining.
“No, we feel blessed,” Giannini said. “We feel like we’re on top of the world. We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves at all.”
And it’s not like La Salle doesn’t belong here.
They’re 2-1 against ranked teams this year, with wins three days apart in January against No. 9 Butler at Gola Arena and against Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond.
Can the Explorers handle adversity? La Salle was 8-1 this year in games following a loss.
Giannini thinks this group is ready for anything.
“We’re in a good place,” he said. “Every team, at this point in the season, if you’ve made it this far, you’ve learned to handle two things: You’ve learned to handle adversity -- losses and failure. Because you can’t lose four, five, six in a row and get here.
“And you have to handle success. You have to be able to put a big win behind you. We beat Villanova, turned around and played real well against Hartford. We beat Butler, played well against VCU. We played well against Boise, but you put that behind and hopefully play very well against Kansas State.
“You have to handle both adversity and success to get here. I think our guys have proven that they can do that.”