La Salle Explorers

B.J. Johnson's monster game not enough in OT

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B.J. Johnson's monster game not enough in OT

BOX SCORE

Jeff Dowtin atoned for his miscue.

He scored 25 points, including making 11 of 12 free throws, to help Rhode Island clinch a share of the Atlantic 10 regular season title with a 95-93 overtime victory over La Salle on Tuesday night.

In last Friday's loss to St. Bonaventure, which snapped the Rams' 16-game win streak, Dowtin missed a free throw that would have tied the game in the final seconds. This time, Dowtin was perfect in the clutch, hitting two with six seconds left in regulation and four in the final five seconds of overtime.

"I know last game I didn't play to the best of my abilities," Dowtin said. "I'm going to take that to heart. I really thought I let the team down. My teammates really picked me up this game and feeding off them -- that really helped us get the win."

After the loss to the Bonnies, the Rams got home around 1 a.m. Saturday. Dowtin didn't go right to sleep. Instead, he worked on his free throws.

"He was shooting free throws in the Ryan Center, witnesses said until sometime around 3:30 in the morning and was in there all day Saturday," Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said. "He's the type of kid that -- he's a winner. He's poised. He's composed. He showed everything he was about with the game he played both defensively on (Pookie) Powell and then how he delivered clutch free throw after clutch free throw after missing a big one the other night."

Dowtin, who also had seven assists, five rebounds and three steals, led five Rams in double figures. Stanford Robinson had 20 points, Jared Terrell had 14, E.C. Matthews had 13 and Fatts Russell had 10 off the bench.

La Salle was led by B.J. Johnson, who posted a career-high 23 rebounds to go with 29 points. Johnson had a double-double in the first half with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Rams (22-4, 14-1 Atlantic 10) trailed 30-18 midway through the first half before going on a 14-0 run and taking a 39-37 halftime lead.

"We just had to fight," Dowtin said. "We came out real sluggish. Everybody didn't come ready to play."

Rhode Island never trailed in the second half and led 81-78 with three seconds left. The Rams purposely fouled Powell, who made the first and intentionally missed the second. Tony Washington snared the long rebound and made the putback to tie the game at 81 at the end of regulation.

"That was a crazy play they had. That rarely happens, but it happened," Matthews said.

Cyril Langevine scored four straight to give the Rams a 91-87 lead with 2:20 left in OT. Trailing 91-90, La Salle had two chances to take its first lead since the first half but couldn't convert, as Johnson missed a jumper and committed a turnover.

"As a coach, I feel terrible about (it)," La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini said. "We didn't get anything out of those two possessions where we had a chance to win the game, and that's on me."

Dowtin hit two free throws to give Rhode Island a 3-point lead, and the Rams again intentionally fouled Powell, this time with 3.2 seconds left. Powell again made the first -- and accidentally made the second. After Dowtin made two more, the Explorers tried the same tactic yet again but were called for a lane violation, and the Rams claimed at least a tie for the conference title.

"That's an amazing accomplishment," Hurley said. "The older players have been here -- they put this program in uncharted territory this year with everything they've accomplished. It's a special group. . Obviously we had to do it the hard way, but winning a championship is never easy."

Saul Phiri added 16 points, and Miles Brookins scored 13 for La Salle (11-17, 5-10).

"I thought it was a great college basketball game," Giannini said. "The kids played their hearts out on both teams. Tremendous drama. They were one play better than us."

Big picture
Rhode Island: With one more win or losses by both Davidson and St. Bonaventure, the Rams will clinch the first outright A-10 title in team history. In 1980-81, the Rams finished tied for a share of the Eastern Eight regular season title. The 14 conference victories match a team record.

La Salle: The Explorers are now 9-4 at home this season and have lost five straight to Rhode Island at Tom Gola Arena. Johnson's previous career-high in rebounds was 16 against Miami in November of last year.

Up next
Rhode Island: Hosts Dayton on Friday.

La Salle: Saturday at Fordham.

La Salle names Ashley Howard as new basketball coach

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Photo: La Salle University

La Salle names Ashley Howard as new basketball coach

La Salle didn't have to venture outside of the Big 5 to find its new basketball coach.

The university Sunday announced Villanova top assistant Ashley Howard has been hired as the Explorers' next head coach. Howard will be formally introduced in a press conference Monday at 11 a.m. 

"It's an honor and a privilege to be named the head coach at La Salle University," Howard said in a press release from the university. "I chose to coach at La Salle early in my career because of its incredible tradition in the Big 5, its dedication to athletic excellence and its commitment to its student-athletes.  To have the opportunity to return to campus and lead this storied basketball program — a program defined by greats such as Gola, Durrett, Brooks, Simmons and Butler — is one for which I'm deeply appreciative."

Howard, who attended Monsignor Bonner High and graduated from Drexel, began his coaching career in 2004 at La Salle as an assistant to Dr. John Giannini.

"As a former assistant coach here, we know firsthand that Ashley Howard is an exceptional coaching talent who has a deep understanding of both La Salle's basketball tradition and its important student-focused mission," La Salle director of intercollegiate athletics and recreation Bill Bradshaw said. "This is a university that holds character, integrity and commitment to that mission in the highest esteem, and our men's basketball coach has the unique responsibility of reflecting that on and off the court."

After four years with the Explorers, Howard returned to his alma mater in 2008 as an assistant coach for the Dragons until 2012, when he moved over to Xavier as an assistant. 

Following one season with Xavier, Howard returned to Philadelphia as an assistant on Jay Wright's staff, where he experienced two national championships.

"Ashley is an outstanding coach who made a great impact on our program and University in his five years with us," Wright said. "His passion for mentoring young men and teaching skill has been invaluable in our team's development. La Salle has made a terrific selection and all of us at Villanova are thrilled for Ashley, Ariana and Journey as they embark on this new phase of Ash's career."

Giannini's 14-year tenure with La Salle ended in late March when he and the university "mutually agreed to part ways."

Dr. John Giannini out after 14 years as La Salle's head coach

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Dr. John Giannini out after 14 years as La Salle's head coach

After 14 years as the head coach, Dr. John Giannini is out at La Salle.

The university and head coach "mutually agreed to part ways," the school said in a statement.

Giannini will be best remembered for leading the Explorers to the Sweet 16 in the 2012-13 Cinderella season. 

He compiled a record of 212-226 at La Salle.

"I am truly blessed to have the relationships, challenges, and achievements that come from 29 years of being a head coach. In my time, I have witnessed hundreds of coaching changes involving many terrific coaches and schools," Giannini said in a statement. "Today, (athletic director) Bill Bradshaw and I mutually agreed that La Salle University could benefit from a new voice in leading the program. It is difficult to admit this but I have been given every effort possible for success and I have received nothing but support and encouragement from Bill and President (Colleen) Hanycz. 

"Greater things may be accomplished for this storied program and great university with the approach of a new coach. I am forever grateful, especially to my loyal staff and dedicated student-athletes. I look forward to my next challenge and La Salle's future success."