RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Think Ramon Galloway is excited about how things are going for La Salle basketball?
``It was a huge step,' Galloway said, with an emphasis on ``huge,' after the Explorers beat No. 19 VCU 69-61, giving them consecutive wins against ranked teams for the first time in more than 60 years. ``The biggest step probably in La Salle program history.'
Coach John Giannini interrupted with a laugh at that point, noting that La Salle won the national championship (in 1954), but the point was made, and Galloway and his coach insisted that they are part of a changing of the way La Salle is perceived.
`We don't want to have a mindset of upsetting teams. We want to have a mindset of beating teams,' Galloway said.
Galloway scored 31 points, 12 during an 18-4 run in the second half Saturday night, and La Salle turned back a late rally by the Rams to follow up a dramatic, one-point victory on Wednesday night against No. 9 Butler with another one.
The upstart Explorers (14-5, 4-2 Atlantic 10), who last beat ranked teams consecutively in the 1952 NIT tournament, when they beat three in a row, are off to their best start since the 1990-91 team started the year 14-4.
Just don't expect them to act like they didn't expect it.
``If you think we're surprised, you're nuts!' the animated Giannini snapped at one point, citing the Explorers' 21 wins last year, and a victory in November against Villanova. ``You know nothing about our program and our players if you think we're surprised about winning against a good team. ... We don't care what anyone says or writes. We don't read articles.'
Juvonte Reddic had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Rams (16-5, 4-2), who lost for the second time in three days after a 13-game winning streak. VCU blew a 7-point lead in the last minute and lost in overtime at Richmond on Thursday.
Treveon Graham added 13 points and 12 rebounds, but shot just 4 for 17.
The Rams appeared poised to get back on the winning track when they opened the second half with 17 consecutive points, but the Explorers responded in a streaky game of shifting momentum. Just as quick as VCU and with experienced guards, La Salle did it by attacking on offense.
``It takes a lot of poise and confidence and guts to withstand that against a good team and in such an emotional atmosphere,' Giannini said.
Trailing 45-38, the Explorers got a driving basket from Galloway, and a 10-footer from Tyrone Garland. Galloway scored again on a driving bucket, and after Reddic made a free throw, Tyreek Duren hit a pair of free throws. Garland then scored and Galloway had a 3-pointer, a jumper and another 3-pointer.
That gave La Salle a 53-47 lead, and VCU rallied to 56-55 with 2:50 remaining.
Two of the baskets came from Rams scoring leader Treveon Graham, who missed 12 of his first 13 field goal attempts, and a sellout crowd at the Siegel Center rose expecting a stirring, victorious finish.
But Galloway hit a pair of free throws, Reddic threw a pass away at the other end and Duren drove for a layup after the Explorers burned plenty of time off the clock, restoring the lead to 60-55.
The Rams never got closer than four again.
``We knew their guards were going to attack, one on one,' Theus said, adding that coach Shaka Smart pounded the thought into their heads during their short preparation. ``We've just got to guard the ball and we did a poor job of that today.'
Added Smart: ``It's one thing to know it's coming. It's another thing to stop it.'
VCU erased a 34-25 halftime deficit with a burst to start the second half. The Rams forced three early turnovers and scored the first 17 points to take a 42-34 lead, whipping the crowd in a frenzy.
But just as quickly, the Explorers came back, eventually handing the Rams just their 29th loss against 173 victories in the 13-year history of the Siegel Center.
The first half was all runs, started by VCU when it scored 11 of 13 points to lead 11-8.
Duren then scored seven in a 9-0 run for the Explorers, and Reddic then scored the first eight for VCU in a 12-2 burst that gave the Rams a 23-19 lead with 8 minutes left in the half.
The Explorers dominated the rest of the way, taking a 34-25 lead into halftime after outscoring VCU 15-2 as Galloway hit two 3-pointers, a long 2-pointer and La Salle got three layups in a row.
For the Rams, Reddic and Troy Daniels were 8 for 11 from the field, and the rest of the team was 2 for 22. The Rams finished shooting 38.3 percent (23 of 60), the Explorers 47.1 percent (25 of 51).
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