KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The ball spun around the rim a few times. Then a couple more times.
“It seemed like it took forever,” D.J. Peterson said.
Tyrone Garland’s drive through the lane – the "Southwest Philly Floater,” he calls it – would either spin out, and La Salle and Mississippi would go to overtime or it would spin in, and La Salle -- La Salle -- would be in the Sweet 16 for the first time in 58 years (watch celebration).
“I just stood there with my mouth open, hoping it would drop,” Garland said.
The game was tied at 74-74, the clock was running down -- 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 seconds in the West Regional quarterfinal at the Sprint Center, and Tyreek Duren was looking for Garland out at the left wing.
“Coach wanted us to go at 10,” Duren said. “I waited till there were 10 seconds left and got it to Tyrone. I knew he’d make a play. I knew he’d make something happen.”
Garland drove into the lane and passed up an open jumper from the top of the key with about four seconds left.
“I didn’t make that many jump shots during the game,” he said. “I wasn’t going to settle for a jump shot. I was going to get to the rim.”
He muscled through traffic and shot with three seconds left.
“If it spun out, man, I was going to be really pissed,” Duren said with a laugh.
Garland’s shot rattled in and gave La Salle a 76-74 win over Ole Miss and made the Explorers the fifth No. 13 seed in NCAA tournament history to reach the Sweet 16.
“I’ve made that shot before,” Garland said. “In the playground.”
This one was on a slightly bigger stage and gave a program that won two NCAA tournament games in the last 58 years three NCAA tournament wins in five days.
La Salle’s two wins in Kansas City came by a total of four points. La Salle trailed in the last three minutes of both games.
“I was watching the Ohio State game today when Aaron Craft made the game-winner [against Iowa State],” Garland said. “I was wondering what it felt like. Now I know what it feels like.
“When it went in, I don’t even know what I was thinking. It was just, ‘Oh my God.’”
Garland had to get his shot over 6-foot-9 Reginald Buckner, who’s 13th in Division 1 in blocked shots with 2.7 per game.
“Their 6-1 guard went at the best shot-blocker in the history of our program,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “The kid made a heck of a play.”
Even when Garland’s shot went down, the biggest La Salle celebration in half a century still had to wait.
“I wanted to jump up and down and fall down on the court, but they still had a couple seconds, so I had to find the nearest man and make sure they didn’t hit a half-court shot,” Duren said.
Ole Miss did get a half-court shot off, but Jarvis Summers’ 50-footer sailed over the backboard, sending the Explorers and their fans into a frenzy (watch fan reaction) and sending La Salle to Los Angeles.
“Sweet 16, that’s all I can say,” Sam Mills said. “It’s just an incredible feeling. For us as a program, to just hear La Salle’s name and Sweet 16, it’s unbelievable. La Salle’s on the map now. We just keep shocking people.”
The Explorers will face No. 9 seed Wichita State on Thursday in the Regional semifinals at the Staples Center.
A win Thursday makes La Salle the first No. 13 seed in NCAA history to reach the Elite Eight.
Giannini on Sunday became the first coach in NCAA history to win his first three tournament games as a No. 13 seed or lower.
And it wasn’t lost on Giannini that Sunday’s win came just four short blocks from Municipal Auditorium, where the 1954 Explorers won the NCAA title.
“What a great win,” Giannini said. “We couldn’t be more proud. We talked all week about the great La Salle tradition. When you come in, you want to bring that back. These guys are doing it right before our eyes.”
In five days in two states, La Salle has beaten three teams with a combined 75-25 record.
A week ago, they were on a two-game losing streak, sweating out whether they would even make the tournament. Now they’re one of 16 teams still standing.
“We’re on the map,” 1990 national Player of the Year Lionel Simmons said after the game in the La Salle locker room. “We’re back. We’re big time now.”
Ramon Galloway shot 8-for-13 from the field and 6-for-10 from three for a game-high 24 points, and Duren added 19, including both ends of a 1-and-1 to tie the game at 74 with 1:33 left. Garland scored 17.
Galloway and Mills shared defensive duties on All-America candidate Marshall Henderson, who made just eight of 21 shots and four of 15 threes for 21 points.
"The ball was put in my hands numerous times to make the winning play," Henderson said. "And I failed."
It was Mills who hounded Henderson into a miss in the lane that led to a Mississippi shot-clock violation with 31 seconds left, setting up Garland’s heroics.
“The Sweet 16, there’s nothing better,” Duren said. “Except the Final Four. And winning it all. We’re just surviving and advancing as far as we can.”