Wichita State's size advantage poses threat to La Salle

Wichita State's size advantage poses threat to La Salle

March 28, 2013, 1:45 pm
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LOS ANGELES – Someone wondered what the Explorers knew about Wichita State. Instead of breaking down their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, they offered a quick extemporaneous comedy routine.

The question: Do you know where Wichita State is?

Ramon Galloway: “No, I don’t know.”

Tyrone Garland: “No, I never been to Wichita ... I saw a store down here called Which Which.”

Galloway: “That’s a sandwich place.”

Garland, smiling: “Oh.”

Galloway: “Which state is it in?”

Tyreek Duren: “Steve Zack said we passed the Wichita exit when we were going to the airport [in Kansas City]. I do remember that now. He pointed it out and said ‘that’s who we play.’”

They were all laughing throughout the exchange, and so were the reporters assembled in the room.

While they were a little shaky on where to find Wichita State (it’s in Kansas, for you geography fans), the Explorers know full well that the Shockers are an excellent team – one that runs a wholly different style than they do. The ninth-seeded Shockers are a big group that plays solid defense and rebounds exceedingly well.

Wichita State (28-9) boasts eight players who are 6-5 or taller. The Shockers average 38 rebounds per game, while La Salle – a team that usually has four guards on the court – averages 31.

“Their rebounding is a problem for anyone,” La Salle head coach John Giannini said. “They’re one of the top rebounding teams in the country, and it’s an especially big issue for us. I mean, we’re smaller where we play four guards a lot. I think the rebounding could be the biggest issue in the game. It’s a strength for them and a weakness for us. We can become a very big team very quickly by playing Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright together. You pretty much trade a 6-11 guy for a 6-2 guy and it dramatically changes things.”

The question is how often Giannini will make that move on Thursday – if at all. Zack, who missed the last six games with sprained ligaments in his left foot, was just cleared to play on Wednesday. The sophomore center had a bag of ice on his foot after limited participation in practice. It’s tough to tell how many minutes the Explorers would be able to get out of him, or if they’ll use him at all. Giannini said previously that he tends to be conservative on these matters.

If the Explorers don’t use Zack or employ him on a limited basis, they’ll try to beat Wichita State the same way they beat Boise State, Kansas State and Ole Miss – with quick guards who can hit shots from the perimeter or get to the lane and draw contact.

Each of La Salle’s key guards has had at least one big game so far in the tournament. Duren scored 19 points against Ole Miss. Garland hit the game-winner against the Rebels. Sam Mills had five three-pointers for 15 points against Boise State. And Galloway has been outstanding in each outing, scoring 21 points against the Broncos, 19 against the Wildcats and 24 against the Rebels.

“With us, the fact that we play four guards, a lot of teams think they have an advantage over us because they might be bigger than us,” Duren said. “But I think, at the end of the day, it’s more of an advantage for us because we can clear it out and force them to guard us. A lot of times, you’re playing bigger, slower people than you. It makes it hard for them to guard us. As long as we rebound, we have a shot against any team.”