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THE SCOUTING REPORT: Hofstra returns to the Mack for final non-conference home game vs. La Salle

By Kyle Kandetzki – Assistant Sports Editor This is “The Scouting Report”, an online feature from The Hofstra Chronicle where we go in-depth on the Pride’s upcoming opponent. Stats and insight will be provided to help Hofstra fans know what to expect with each coming matchup.

The Hofstra Pride men’s basketball team looks to bounce from a deflating loss at the hands of the Columbia Lions, snapping a four-game win streak. Hofstra returns home to the Mack Sports Complex for the first time since December 2nd to face the La Salle Explorers. The matchup has been pointed to as an interesting one, as La Salle is Coach Mihalich’s alma mater.

THE BASIC INFORMATION: La Salle University is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. La Salle is a private Roman Catholic school with nearly 5,000 undergrads. La Salle plays in one of the best conferences outside of the ‘power five’, the Atlantic-10. The A-10 includes teams like Saint Louis, George Washington, UMass, Dayton and former CAA teams VCU and George Mason.

HISTORY: La Salle has one of the more storied histories among all of Hofstra’s opponents this year, with a national championship in 1954, multiple appearances in the tournament in four decades, and twelve total NCAA Tournament appearances. Their only postseason in the past twenty years came memorably in 2013, when the #13 Explorers fought all the way to the sweet sixteen.

Going back to Mihalich’s history with the Explorers, he played guard at La Salle from 1974 to 1978, being apart of two teams that went to the NCAA Tournament (both lost in the first round). Mihalich then would be an assistant at the school for 17 years before moving to Niagara.

LAST YEAR:La Salle went 15-16, 7-9 in the A-10, equaling an 8th place finish.

THIS YEAR: La Salle is 6-5 so far, but has one of the worst records of all A-10 teams (10th out of 14). But to be fair, La Salle’s losses are nothing to laugh at, as they’ve been downed by #8 Virginia, #10 Villanova, Vanderbilt, and Temple.

La Salle hasn’t had the easiest time handling opponents, with no wins by more than 14 points, and four of their wins coming by ten points or fewer.

This will be the Explorers third meeting with a CAA team, after taking somewhat easy wins against Drexel and Towson.

THE COACH: The La Salle coach is John Giannini, who is in his 11th season in Philly. He was behind the team’s 2013 success, but has only led his teams over .500 four times. He formerly coached at the University of Maine, and was a DIII National Champ in 1996 with Rowan.

LOSSES: La Salle lost their top scorer from 2013-14, A-10 second team guard Tyreek Duren. Duren put up 15.2 PPG along with 3.5 boards and assists. He also led the team in steals.

Also gone is fellow backcourt member Tyrone Garland, who was third in scoring with 12.5 PPG, but a mediocre field goal percentage of 33%.

CURRENT ROSTER: Bursting in to anchor this offense in 2014 has been 6’5” guard Jordan Price. Price redshirted last year after transferring from Auburn, and is by far this team’s scoring leader with 17.9 PPG. The Pride won’t be getting a cold Price either, as he is fresh off a 31-point effort against Towson.

The bigs that the Pride will have to deal with start with 6’8” forward Jarrell Wright, who averages over 11 PPG, while adding 6.6 RPG. He is also the team’s most efficient shooter at 46%. Next is 6’11” center Steve Zack who has a nice stat line of 7.5 PPG, 9 RPG, and 1.6 blocks per game. Both are experienced with working with each other down low, as both guys are seniors.

The Explorers then have a collective of four guards that average 20+ minutes each on the court, and while none have particularly impressive numbers individually, they put together about 22 points per game. Those four are Cleon Roberts, Khalid Lewis, Amar Stukes, and D.J. Peterson, and they seem to put their heads together in an efficient spot as role players next to the prolific Price.

WEAKNESSES: Similar to Columbia (but not to such an extreme degree), La Salle is lead by their defense, which only allows 60.9 PPG. The offense has Price to guide it, but still only averages 62.3 PPG as a whole. This number is a bit lower than I would expect to see tonight, as playing several highly touted opponents hurt their stats. But, still expect an offense that cannot match up with Hofstra’s if the Pride can get semi-hot.

Regardless of the opponent, La Salle has lost 5 of their last 7 games, including what could be seen as a ‘bad’ loss to American University seven days ago. The teams that they did beat aren’t too exciting: Quinnipiac (only by two, though they did just upset Oregon State), Colgate (only by five, 3-9 record), and Saint Peter’s. This team has faced both ends of the extremes of basketball programs, and it is yet to be seen how they play against middle of the road teams like Hofstra.

Other striking stats include only a 40% team shooting percentage, low amount off assists, and below average rebounding.

THE MATCHUP: Hofstra will need to fix the mistakes they made at Columbia to win this one, though this team is a bit less threatening than the Lions. Hofstra put up a lot of points on a very good defense last time out, and it is clear this team’s offensive issues are few and far between. What they will need is a stronger defensive showing, as Hofstra gave up the most points they have all season to one of the weaker offenses in the nation.

La Salle also bears a resemblance to Columbia in that they have a mediocre offense statistically, but have one player (Maodo Lo vs. Jordan Price) that leads the offense with high scoring efforts. The Pride allowed a few players to light up the floor on Saturday, but the main concern should be on Price on Tuesday. Hofstra can’t let another offense of lesser power tear them down, and it all starts with the guy with 18 PPG.

Need an example? Take a look at La Salle vs. Towson. The Explorers shot just 37%, and the starting five minus Price shot 8-for-26. But Price’s 31 points on 50% shooting was enough to easily knock off the opponent. Point made: Price cannot light it up like Lo did.

La Salle also has two big men who eat up boards and can also add points. It is a relief to have Moussa Kone back to help the deflated frontcourt situation, but he did not look on his game vs. Columbia. Hopefully this will be attributed to rust, because this team needs depth, experience, and scoring from the center position. Andre Walker can rise into becoming a key player, but he is not that guy yet, and Hofstra needs Kone and eventually Gustys to eat up most of those minutes.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Juan’ya Green struggled a bit vs. Columbia, and I doubt he will shoot 26% again. But it should be interesting to see if other players will be looked to for a standout performance. Brian Bernardi has his offensive contributions every game, but seems to be relatively quiet for a few games at a time. Will he return to shooting the lights out this afternoon?

Or could it be Dion Nesmith? Dion’s role this season has slowly increased, and was given the start vs. Columbia. He was efficient shooting, and has generally impressed many times this season (who could forget Stony Brook?). Could Dion have a breakout game?

And Malik Nichols has been extremely impressive while working as a forward. Nichols has been huge at the boards, and was just one rebound away from a third consecutive double-double on Saturday. Does Nichols have the fire power to take the reins from time to time?

But in the end, it will usually be Green and Tanksley impressing offensively. Tanksley still managed to shoot over 50% on Saturday, and seems to never have an off night, meanwhile Green can struggle, but his best play is CAA first-team worthy. It is interesting to consider which other player may pop up as the team’s top performer on any given night.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS Pride Green (18.1 PPG, 6.1 APG) Nichols (7 PPG, 11.3 RPG in last three games) Bernardi (13.8 PPG, 2-6 on Sunday) Tanksley (18.3 PPG, 6 RPG, 55% FG) Kone (2 pts in 13 mins in first game since 11/14 v. JU)

Explorers Roberts (6.8 PPG) Price (17.9 PPG, 31 pts in last game) Lewis (6.6 PPG) Wright (11.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG) Zack (7.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG)

NEXT UP: vs. LIU-Brooklyn (@ Barclays Center) 12/28

Men's basketball succumbs to first losing streak with loss to La Salle

Women's basketball cruises in Boston for fourth straight win