La Salle basketball
La Salle's Aaric Murray, left, shoots over Temple's Michael Eric during the second half on Saturday in Philadelphia. H. Rumph Jr., Associated Press

(Editor's note: The Atlantic 10 Conference men's basketball tournament will be held at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall from March 12-14. The Press' A-10 report runs every Tuesday leading up to the tournament.)

La Salle received bad news last week when senior guard Kimmani Barrett had surgery to repair a fractured right foot that will sideline him for six to eight weeks.

The timing couldn't have been worse, as the Explorers (11-10, 3-4 Atlantic 10) are fighting to get out of the middle of the conference.

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They currently sit in eighth place and are now in the most difficult part of their schedule. La Salle hosts Rhode Island and St. Louis, which are fourth and seventh in the conference, respectively, this week after Saturday's 64-52 loss to Temple.

"I think (Rhode Island's) defense, effort and speed at which they play the game is something you have to be prepared for," said coach John Giannini, who led Rowan to a national championship in Division III in 1996. "When you play Rhode Island, it's an effort-based game."

The Explorers lacked some of that effort in the first half of Wednesday's 80-73 win over Fordham. The team looked tired, according to Giannini, and it was its first game without Barrett, who averaged 13.3 points per game. Barrett could come back in time for the Atlantic 10 men's basketball tournament in Atlantic City March 12-14.

"We were pleased we were able to rally," Giannini said. "Rodney Green had a tremendous second half."

Green posted 16 points, but freshman forward Aaric Murray shined in Barrett's absence. Against Fordham, he had a career-high 24 points with four blocks. Murray is the only player in the country averaging 2.5 blocks and at least one 3-pointer a game.

However, in Saturday's 64-52 loss to Temple, the Explorers never got in a rhythm and couldn't make a run at the Owls.

"The Temple game was really all about their defense," Giannini said. "It's rare that anyone has consistency through a whole 40 minutes. No game typically has that kind of even flow. But Temple's defense is as consistent as I have seen in a long time."

Even though La Salle has played sub-.500 basketball in January (4-5), the other A-10 coaches know the Explorers are always a tough out, just like the other teams in Philadelphia.

"Philadelphia will have a direct impact by either one, two or three of those teams," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. "Because they are either first (in the conference) or going to be so tough to play all the time."

Movie magic?: On Jan. 27, Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg took the Minutemen to the Philadelphia Museum of Art before their game against Saint Joseph's. UMass ran up the stairs, emulating the famous scene from "Rocky". The Minutemen won their first road game that night, 87-80.

Weekly honors: Charlotte sophomore Derrio Green averaged 30 points in a pair of wins for his second Player of the Week honor. He scored 26 against Temple in a 74-64 win and a career-high 34 points in a 72-58 win over Massachusetts.

Fordham's Chris Gaston and La Salle's Murray shared the league's Rookie of the Week award. Gaston, a St. Anthony High School graduate, had 21 points and 15 rebounds in an 80-72 loss to La Salle. It was his 12th double-double of the season. Murray averaged 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and two blocks in two games.

Notes: Dayton's 30-game home winning streak was broken when Rhode Island's Marquis Jones hit a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left to left the Rams to a 65-64 win last Tuesday night. It was the third-longest active streak in the country.

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