After finally hoisting a spot in the Top 25 following a nearly 30-year drought, No. 19 Virginia Commonwealth fell out of the rankings following a home loss to Atlantic 10 foe La Salle, 69-61, on Saturday.
The Rams (16-5, 4-2 A-10) were beaten in two straight games last week, while the Explorers (14-5, 4-2 A 10) have become accustomed to providing upsets, especially after squeezing by No. 9 Butler last Wednesday.
La Salle guard Ramon Galloway led the way offensively for the Explorers, shooting 9-for-18 from the field and 9-for-10 from the charity stripe, totaling 31 points with 12 coming from behind the arc. Forward Jerrell Wright and center Steve Zack led the team defensively, combining for five blocks and 20 rebounds.
VCU led by as many as eight midway through the second half, but La Salle scratched and clawed its way back into it, tying the game at 46 apiece with 9:26 to go. The Explorers scored 10 of the next 13 points to build a 56-49 lead with 5:55 to go, as they held on for the victory.
Despite a meek, 61-point effort on 38.3 percent shooting from the field, individual efforts shined for the Rams. Forward Juvonte Reddic logged 22 points and 10 rebounds, while guard Treveon Graham finished with 13 points and 12 boards.
VCU travels to Rhode Island on Wednesday, while La Salle takes on visiting Massachusetts.
Colonial beat down
Charlotte is having a surprisingly successful season, but the impressive 49ers (16-4, 4-2 A-10) couldn’t come up with enough to beat George Washington on Saturday, as the Colonials (10-9, 4-2 A-10) destroyed Charlotte, 82-54.
Patricio Garino led GW with 16 points, while Lasan Kromah and Bryan Bynes each chipped in 12 off the bench.
While a blowout loss, might be short on positivity, the 49ers had three players who scored double-digit points. DeMario Mayfield carried the team with 17 points off 50 percent shooting from the field to go along with a co-team leading eight rebounds. Forward Willie Clayton also grabbed eight boards in the defeat.
GW hosts La Salle on Saturday, while Charlotte looks to get back on track against Massachusetts.
Clarke returns in Butler win
In his first game back since missing three games from a neck injury earlier in the season, Butler guard Rotnei Clarke proved he was ready to come back to competition after helping his No. 9 Bulldogs defeat Temple in an 83-71 home victory on Saturday.
The win came after a surprising loss to A-10 opponent La Salle in which Clarke’s absence loomed large in the defeat.
Despite the loss, the Bulldogs (17-3, 4-1 A-10) still managed to stay on the winning track, especially against the Owls (13-6, 2-3 A-10), who have proved to be one of the conference’s best over recent years.
From the opening tip, Butler stayed in the game until the end, led by Clarke’s 24-point performance off a 4-for-14 shooting night, which was justified by a clutch 13-for-14 pace from the free throw line. Clarke also provided nine assists in the game, while teammate Khyle Marshall shot 9-for-11 from the field to tally 19 points.
Temple allowed Butler to shoot 52 percent from the field, and were outrebounded, 33-21, including 10 offensive rebounds for the Bulldogs. The defense couldn’t contain an explosive Butler offense charged by Clarke, which led to such a loss.
The Bulldogs travel to Saint Louis on Thursday, and the Owls host Richmond Wednesday.
Tom Mulherin can be reached at email@example.com.