Lets get this part out of the way up front.
By RICK PLUMLEE
The Wichita Eagle
First, La Salle never thought for a moment it was playing with house money in the NCAA Tournament because it had to make a side trip Wednesday to Dayton, Ohio, where it defeated Boise State in a First Four game.
Thats not at all the way we would ever think, La Salle coach John Giannini said. That would be a ridiculous way to think.
Neither are the Explorers feeling particularly tired because they didnt get into Kansas City until 3 a.m. Thursday.
Its March Madness, La Salle forward Rohan Brown said. You dont get tired.
No. 13 seed La Salle started off like a rocket, stumbled in the second half and then finished strong Friday in its victory over Kansas State.
That was a hard 13 to play, K-State coach Bruce Weber said.
It was the Explorers first NCAA Tournament victory since 1990. On Sunday, theyll play Mississippi, a No. 12 seed that upset No. 5 Wisconsin earlier Friday.
The packed house of purple-clad fans had barely settled into their seats when La Salles Tyrone Garland missed a layup.
K-State didnt make a move for the rebound. Instead, the 5-foot-11 Garland grabbed the ball and made a follow shot.
They were a little loose, like they werent ready for the game, Garland said of the Wildcats. And then we hit them and woke them up in the first half.
La Salle led by as many as 19 points in the first half and were up 44-26 at halftime.
And then, yes, the Wildcats did wake up. They made it a game with the help of La Salle forward Jerrell Wright sitting on the bench with foul trouble and the Explorers making three second-half baskets.
Jerrell Wright, Jerrell Wright, Garland said. Thats why we won.
La Salle also made some defensive adjustments in the way it played K-States ball screens, but it was Wright who closed the game.
Were no different than a lot of teams, Giannini said. We win with defense. We kept challenging our guys, Well be all right. Just get some stops.
K-State didnt score a basket in the last 4:54.
But there was also Wright scoring the games final nine points including seven of eight on free throws while tying his career high of 21 points.
After Wright made one of five free throws Wednesday in the victory over Boise State, Giannini had a word with him.
Literally one word.
I told him to just focus on the word in at the line, Giannini said. If you do, you wont think about anything else.