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Following La Salle’s latest upset, Ramon Galloway marched around in a shirt that flawlessly put into words what this past week had been like.
“HERE REP IS EARNED,” the 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard’s shirt read. Galloway had just had his way with VCU’s signature defense to the tune of 31 points in the Explorers win over No. 19 VCU.
Just three days earlier La Salle had taken down No. 9 Butler, VCU’s partner in joining the Atlantic 10 this season.
VCU and Butler had come into the conference picked to overtake all the mainstays that had been in the league for years, including La Salle. Now the Explorers have burst out of the woodwork and defeated both teams in consecutive games.
“It was a great step,” Galloway said. “It was probably the greatest step in La Salle history.”
Explorers coach John Giannini interjected on Galloway’s statement to remind the senior that La Salle had won a national championship years ago.
“We weren’t alive then,” added junior guard Tyreek Duren, referring to the school’s championship in 1954.
Regardless, this was a huge step for La Salle, which not only showed that VCU and Butler aren’t the only teams contending for an A-10 title, but that it can beat a couple of the nation’s best teams.
For outsiders, the Explorers last two wins will be seen as upsets, but not for La Salle.
“If you think we’re surprised you’re nuts,” Giannini said.
And perhaps he’s right. More than two weeks into conference play, it’s been made clear that anybody can beat anybody. VCU has twice been a victim of that this week with losses to Richmond and now La Salle.
“It’s just a better league,” VCU head coach Shaka Smart said in comparison to the Colonial Athletic Association. “From a standpoint of talent is the biggest thing that jumps up and smacks you.”
It could be argued that the Rams haven’t been themselves as of late in nearly every aspect of the game. They’ve shot 38.5 percent over the last two games and 7-of-33 from long distance, which doesn’t help when the opponents were 16-of-40 from that territory.
Leading scorer Treveon Graham is 8-for-28 shooting over the last two games and has lacked the ability to finish under the basket.
“They did a nice job but Tre wasn’t Tre tonight,” Smart said after the La Salle loss.
Briante Weber, the poster child for VCU’s havoc-wreaking defense, was limited to 43 minutes over the last two games due to foul trouble.
For VCU, perhaps this is a sign. The last time the Rams lost two straight games came at the end of November against Duke and Missouri. VCU’s following act was a 13-game winning streak, the nation’s second longest at the time.
The perfect opportunity lies ahead for VCU with games against Rhode Island and Fordham, two of the A-10’s bottom feeders.
“Now we got punched in the mouth two times,” VCU point guard Darius Theus said. “Now we have to go back to the drawing board.”