Andrew Albert (@andrewjalbert01)
Guard play has been a constant for La Salle all season. The trio of Ramon Galloway, Sam Mills and Tyreek Duren, with the addition of transfer Tyrone Garland have been the cornerstone of success all season. None of that changed in the Explorers 74-57 thrashing of Big 5 opponent Penn on Saturday afternoon.
Galloway, Duren and Garland combined for a total of 49 of the 74 points scored by La Salle to dominate the Ivy League opponent.
Duren led the charge for La Salle (10-3, 2-0 Big 5) in the second half, going off for 13 points in the last 20 minutes alone, giving him a total of 17 for the game. He was efficient from the field, especially in the second half. He was 5-for-9 in the latter period, after going 2-for-6 in the first half.
“I always just play within the flow of the game,” Duren said. “My teammates were driving by people, and finding me wide open, and just hit the open shots.”
Galloway also had a solid day for the Explorers, adding another 17 points in the winning effort. He also contributed in other areas, adding 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals on the day.
La Salle, as a team, shot well in the second half. They were 13-for-23 from the field, which was good for 56.5 percent. They made four of their eight attempts from behind the arc in the second 20 minutes of play. Their hot second half boosted their game shooting percentage to 43.6 percent (22-for-55), including 40.9 percent from 3-point range (9-22).
Penn did not fare as well in the second half shooting wise, making just 11 of their 33 attempts (33.3 percent). They were 22-for-61 on the day (36.1 percent), making the same number of shots as the Explorers. Penn’s mediocre shooting was caused by a more tenacious La Salle defense than has been seen in the past few games for the Explorers.
“I am pleased with the win and especially that our defense was improved over how we’ve been playing,” La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini said. “We took three charges after not taking a charge forever, and we got better defensively.”
“The Miami game was the first time in two years that I thought we didn’t play hard defensively, and we didn’t do what they know is right defensively,” Giannini added. “I think our offense affected our defense, and having a bad shooting night had our guys frustrated. We talked about following our fundamentals, especially at crunch time. We talked about not letting offense affect defense. We talked about being accountable, admitting your mistakes. We talked about being more physical, taking charges, doing harder things. And those are the things that make a team tough. And we didn’t have it in the last 11 minutes against Miami, and today was a step back in the right direction.”
Penn was doomed by their turnovers, especially in the first half. The came into the game averaging 17 turnovers a game, and committed 15 turnovers in the first half. The Quakers took care of the ball better in the second half, only turning the ball over six times. Their 21 turnovers on the day led to 18 La Salle points. La Salle’s trapping press caused a lot of Quaker turnovers in the first half.
“We did not handle it very well,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said of the La Salle press. “At times in the game, it wasn’t even a trapping press, it was just aggressive man to man, and our inability to see past our man and be confident and poised and strong with the ball was an issue today.”
Tony Hicks led the Penn (2-11, 0-2 Big 5) attack on Saturday, leading the Quakers with 14 points, but had just one rebound and no assists on the day. He played just 22 minutes due to foul trouble.
“Obviously Tony has a lot of work ahead of him, but what I will say is primarily in the first half, he was aggressive in his approach, taking it to the basket, shooting pull-ups and trying to make plays,” Allen said. “Whether the ball goes in the basket or not is one thing, but whatever you do on the court you need to be aggressive and assertive with it and I thought in the first half he did a pretty decent job with it.”
Dau Jok had a day full of new career highs. The co-captain scored a career-tying 8 points, and a career-high 11 rebounds on the day. Penn outrebounded La Salle 43-36, with Jok leading the Quakers in boards.
La Salle went on a 12-0 run towards the end of the first half to pull away from Penn for a 36-35 halftime lead. Garland sparked the Explorers run, scoring eight of the 12 points, including his own 7-0 run. He finished the first half with 13 points to lead the Explorers. He scored just two points in the second half, giving him 15 for the game.
La Salle was able to go on the run due to a plethora of Penn turnovers in the first half. The Quakers handed the Explorers the ball 15 times in the first half, including 4 by Miles Cartwright. Penn looked sloppy on the offensive end, as they had many wide open shots, but could not convert early on in the game.
“It is tough,” Allen added. “I think at halftime we had 15 turnovers, and we talked about not turning the ball over and finishing defensive possessions with rebounds. To come out, and be down only 10 at halftime with 15 turnovers was a positive, for lack of a better way of saying it. Especially with such a young team, when you get down, you tend to want to do everything on one possession all by yourself. I haven’t seen a 10-point shot invented yet, so we just want the guys to play one possession at a time.
Though the Quakers has many missed opportunities, Penn did not shoot the ball poorly in the first half, as they converted on 11 of their 28 first half field goal attempts. They were just 2-of-7 (28.6 percent) from downtown in the first 20 minutes. They were led by Hicks, who was 4-for-8 from the field, and accounted for 10 of the Quakers points.
As a team, La Salle shot 34.4 percent from the field in the first half (11-for-32), including 5-for-14 (35.7 percent) from beyond the arc. They managed 13 points off Penn’s 15 first half turnovers to take a 10 point lead into the locker room.
Though Penn was down by double digits entering the second half, they managed to out-rebound the Explorers in the first 20 minutes of action. The Quakers brought down 25 rebounds to the Explorers 17, led by Darien Nelson-Henry with five.
The Quakers were once again without their leading scorer and rebounder Fran Dougherty. He is out with mono, and Allen believes that he will be out for “a couple weeks.”
Jerrell Wright also had a good second half for the Explorers. He added another double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, including eight of those points and rebounds in the second 20 minutes. He was 3-for-4 from the field, and was 4-for-7 from the free-throw line for the game.
Mills had another down game for La Salle, taking just four shots, making two of them for five points. He has not scored in double digits since he scored 14 points against Penn State on December 5. Since that game, he has averaged just 5.8 points per game, including sitting out due to injury against Sacred Heart.
La Salle opens Atlantic 10 play on January 9 when they travel to Charlotte at 7:30 p.m. Penn next takes the court on January 8 when they take on Lafayette at home. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m.