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La Salle takes down St. Bonaventure, expands A-10 win streak to 5

01/28/2023, 8:00pm EST
By Jerome Taylor

Jerome Taylor (@ThatGuy_Rome)

PHILADELPHIA – La Salle’s offensive versatility and efficiency has been one of the biggest reasons for its recent run. 

But in their quest for their fifth straight victory, the Explorers shot 29.9% from the field. They had to find a different way to win. 

The answer came in their advantage in the defensive and rebounding aspects of the game. 

The Explorers used a +14 advantage on the offensive glass to lead them to a 65-52 win over St. Bonaventure, their fifth straight victory. 

“The game is easy when you make shots … can you win basketball games when the ball doesn’t go in? And 29% is a lot of not going in,” La Salle head coach Mountain MacGillivray said.

La Salle's Clair Jacobs scored 21 points in Saturday's win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)

“To win a game by 13 because we win the turnover battle by 7, we win the offensive rebound battle by 14, that’s what we’ve been preaching, and they went out there and got it done.”

The Explorers (14-8, 5-2 A-10) outsized rebounding advantage was a team effort, as five players had five or more rebounds. But Kayla Spruill’s nine rebounds (5 offensive) stood out above the rest. 

“As most of the kids are starting to realize, you have to do what needs to be done right now,”

MacGillivray said. “And Kayla realized we needed to finish off possessions and get extra possessions, and she went and got them for us.”

Even though La Salle didn’t shoot with the efficiency that has helped it during this win streak (their field goal percentage for the previous four wins was 34%), their usual suspects picked up the slack. 

In the first half, two-thirds of the Jacobs sisters carried the scoring load for the Explorers, with Mia and Claire Jacobs combining for 24 of the team’s 30 first-half points en route to a 30-23 halftime lead.

The team has become accustomed to the sisters’ scoring. They’ve scored at least ten points in every game during the streak. And on Saturday, Mia scored 17 and her older sister Claire poured in a game-high 21 points. 

“I think everyone kept shooting their own shot, and sometimes some people’s fall more than others, but I think we trust each other,” Claire said. “I think our team keeps the mentality of ‘even if it’s not going in, we’ll keep shooting,’ and fortunately enough for me and Mia, it was going in.” 

In the second half, the Explorers' defense made an adjustment that allowed them to take control of the game. They went from prioritizing stopping dribble drive in the middle of the lane to stopping dribble penetration from the wings.

The adjusted strategy resulted in more of what the Explorers call “kills” or three defensive stops in a row. In the second half on Saturday, they registered three “kills,” not to mention the four forced shot clock violations in the second half and 19 turnovers overall. 

“We’re rallying around what we call ‘kills’,... and that energy coming from the bench has been uplifting,” MacGillivray said. “It’s been a big change for our team hearing that bench the whole time.”

Offensively, in the second half, Charity Spears made her presence known late in the third quarter, knocking down two threes in the final 2:30 of third frame. 

It was the start of a 22-14 run that clinched La Salle’s first 5-game in-conference win streak since the 2016-17 season. 

“We all are pretty happy, we go into our practices feeling pretty confident,” Jacobs said. “I think with each win and each game we grow… and we realize some people need to do this and some need to do that, and it holds us to a higher standard.”The good vibes shouldn’t be mistaken for being content, though. Halfway through the conference schedule,  MacGillivray still sees his players competing to win roles every day in practice, and that’s translating to the success in their games. 

“Everyone knows they’re competing for their opportunities, so there’s still a lot of fight in practice,” MacGillivray said. “I wouldn’t say the vibe is loosey-goosey, but we’re starting to feel good about ourselves because that’s what happens when you play hard every possession.” 

La Salle will be looking to extend its win streak to six on Wednesday when the Explorers head to Richmond, Va. to take on VCU. 

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