PHILADELPHIA – Senior Earl Pettis scored a season-high 23 points and junior Ramon Galloway had 16 as La Salle knocked off preseason Atlantic 10 favorite Xavier, 80-70, on Wednesday at Tom Gola Arena. The victory extended the Explorers’ record Gola Arena winning streak to 10 games, the most since La Salle won 11 straight from January 9 to December 4, 1990.
The win was the fourth straight for La Salle and the ninth in the past 10 games. The Explorers’ 11-4 record is the best after 15 games since the 1990-91 team started 12-3.
Xavier has been the standard-bearer in the Atlantic 10 over the past decade, winning five straight A-10 regular season titles and going to six straight NCAA Tournaments. This year, the Musketeers reached as high as number eight in the national polls before falling out recently.
But Xavier had no answer for La Salle in the conference opener, falling behind by 16 at the half and trailing by double-digits for most of the second half. The loss was just the fourth by XU in Atlantic 10 play over the past two seasons.
Galloway and Mills held one of the nation’s top backcourts, All-American Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, in check with stifling defense. Holloway shot just 2-for-12 on his way to 15 points while Lyons connected for 13 on 5-for-11 shooting. Xavier freshman Dezmine Wells had 15 points to tie Holloway for the team lead.
The defensive performance on Holloway marks the 11th time in the past 12 games that the Explorers held the opponent’s top scorer under his season average. Holloway came into the game averaging 18.2 ppg.
The magic numbers for La Salle continue to be 70 points and eight three-pointers. The Blue and Gold improved to 11-0 when scoring 70 points and 10-1 when making at least eight threes. Tonight the Explorers hit nine, with Galloway leading the charge with three. Mills hit one, extending his streak to 14 games with at least one trifecta.
La Salle took the lead on a Duren three-pointer with 12:40 left in the first half to make it 19-16 and never looked back. A 14-0 run from late in the first half turned a tie contest into a 38-24 lead with 4:34 to play.
Xavier (9-5, 0-1 A-10) trained by 16 at the half, 46-30, and trailed by double-figures until an Andre Walker lay-up made it 65-57 with 7:48 to play. The Musketeers cut it to 74-69 with 1:43 left but a Pettis steal and senior Devon White dunk with 50 seconds left sealed the victory for the Explorers.
The Explorers will wrap up a four-game home stand on Sunday when they host Massachusetts at 2 PM. The game will be broadcast locally by Comcast SportsNet.