La Salle stuns No. 9 Butler with last-second bucket

La Salle stuns No. 9 Butler with last-second bucket

January 23, 2013, 11:15 pm
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Seconds after hitting the biggest shot of his life, La Salle senior Ramon Galloway was swarmed by a sea of exuberant fans.

With a driving layup in the final seconds that sent the Explorers to a thrilling 54-53 victory over No. 9 Butler on Wednesday (see Instant Replay) -- La Salle’s first win over a top-10 team since 1980 -- everyone wanted to give him a hug.

But the only person Galloway wanted to hug back wasn’t one of the fans who packed Tom Gola Arena to the rafters and rushed the court following the biggest win in head coach John Giannini’s tenure.

“I didn’t get to hug my mom,” Galloway said through heavy tears in the postgame press conference. “That’s the toughest thing ever. I wanted my mom to be there.”

Giannini later revealed that Galloway, the third-leading scorer in the Atlantic 10, did not start the contest because of “some family difficulty.” Neither the player nor coach specified what the particular issue was for Galloway -- who was granted an NCAA hardship waiver when he transferred to La Salle from South Carolina two years ago -- except to say that Galloway is very close to his mother and that she was not able to attend Wednesday’s game.

“He’s a very positive person and, like a lot of us, he’s going through a tough stretch,” Giannini said. “I admire him more than ever for the way he responded.”
It was hard to tell anything was weighing on Galloway’s mind in the final seconds of Wednesday’s game.

After Andrew Smith -- who led Butler with 16 points, including 11 in the final 5½ minutes -- hit a layup to put the Bulldogs ahead by a point with eight seconds left, Galloway found himself with the ball in his hands.

He remembers looking to Giannini on the sideline, feeling his defender relax and then bursting toward the basket. He made the layup with three seconds left and Butler’s Roosevelt Jones -- who delivered one of the best buzzer-beaters of the college basketball season just four days earlier in a win over nationally ranked Gonzaga -- missed a halfcourt heave as time expired.

“We had no timeouts and we had to make a play, much like their guy did against Gonzaga,” Giannini said. “You got to have someone do something special and Ramon did something special.”

Might the game-winning play have turned out differently had La Salle had a timeout in that situation?

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” the La Salle coach said to a chorus of laughs. “It’s a great question and let’s be fortunate that we don’t know what the outcome is in an alternate universe if we had another timeout and called it.”

Following the miss from Jones, who finished with 14 points and five assists for the Bulldogs (16-3 overall, 3-1 Atlantic 10), La Salle fans rushed the court to celebrate the end of Butler’s 13-game winning streak. But moments later, they were told to leave the floor because the PA announcer said “the game is not over.”

As it turned out, Butler head coach Brad Stevens had asked to check the monitor to make sure the clock ran out properly.

La Salle point guard Tyreek Duren, however, wasn’t worried.

“There was no way they were putting some more time back on the clock,” Duren said. “And even if they did, we’d still win. We’d intercept the pass or something. There was no way we were losing that game -- not after what we just went through.”

Shortly after fans returned to their seats, another announcement was made: the game was over and La Salle had won.

“It’s the greatest feeling ever,” Galloway said. “It was one of the greatest wins ever in my life for me and I know it is for my teammates, too.”

Galloway finished with six points and four turnovers but certainly got a lot of help from his teammates. Duren finished with 16 points, six assists and five rebounds and had a huge steal and transition bucket to put La Salle up by three with three minutes left. Junior guard Sam Mills added 11 points, including a go-ahead basket with 32 seconds left.
As a team, the Explorers (13-5, 3-2) overcame a poor-shooting first half and went on a 16-5 run midway through the half to take the lead and set the stage for the late-game drama.

“You have to feel tremendous about getting a hard-earned victory against a special opponent like that,” Giannini said. “But that being said, I’m not overly surprised. In fact, I’m not surprised at all. I think our players are good.

“I expect us to be good. If you see me after big wins, I’m not jumping around and doing dances.”

Giannini went on to say that the victory was not a “landmark win” and that good teams like La Salle “need to win these kinds of games.” And, of course, there’s still a long way to go to make the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 1992, starting with a big road matchup Saturday against another nationally-ranked team in VCU.

“This win doesn’t mean we’re going to have a great season,” Giannini said. “We have VCU on Saturday.”

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