PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/4/2014 – The La Salle Explorers offense scored by getting the ball inside especially to junior forward Jerrell Wright who scored a game-high and career-high tying 21 points. Once La Salle established the inside it opened their outside game. The balance allowed the Explorers to cruise to a 76 – 57 win over the University of Pennsylvania in a Big Five game at the Palestra. La Salle had been struggling on offense, but this game reestablished the type of game they want to play.
“With the balance we can be a better team than we were last year,” said La Salle senior guard Tyreek Duren.
“We got him (Wright) the ball in the post and he got it back out to us. It got us into a good rhythm.”
La Salle took an early lead as Wright and senior center Steve Zack pushed La Salle out to a 18 – 10 lead. At that point the guards took over as Duren and senior guard Tyrone Garland hit back to back three pointers to open a double-digit lead. The Explorers held a 36 – 20 advantage into halftime. The Red and Blue could not get any sustained offense shooting 7 of 23 from the field (30.4%), and 2 of 12 from distance. Ten
turnovers also hurt the Quakers.
The second half began with the Explorers getting the ball into Wright who scored the first four baskets of the second half. The Explorers used that start to go on a 22 – 3 run to give them their largest lead of the game at 58 – 23 with 12:16 on the clock. Wright scored 8 points in the run along with Duren. The La Salle offense in the run had balance with the guards scoring 12 points and the forwards 10. Meanwhile Penn was limited to just 10 points in the first ten minutes of the latter half.
“It was effort and getting the ball into Jerrell (Wright) in good places,” said La Salle Coach Dr. John Giannini on how his team was able to make the second half run. “I don’t think it was more complicated than that. We played good defense as they scored only three points for a lengthy period of time. When you are playing a good team and they have only one basket for a ling stretch, you’ve got to feel good about that. It was a good defensive effort and Jerrell was just terrific.”
“Jerrell Wright did wanted no matter who we put on him,” said Allen.
The Quakers got scoring later in the second half. For the game Penn had an inside outside combination as sophomore guard Tony Hicks scored a team-high 16 points while senior forward Fran Dougherty scored 14 points and took down a game-high 9 rebounds. However, senior guard Miles Jackson-Cartwright scored just one. Penn Coach Jerome Allen felt his team needed more from the entire team, not just the core guards.
“We try not to put all of the scoring responsibilities on those guys,” said Allen. “We expect them to make aggressive plays for themselves and for their teammates. All of the scoring is not their responsibility. All five guys need to be in action to get two or three points in a possession.”
Duren and Garland added 14 points each. Zack scored 10 points . La Salle shot 44.4% (24 – 54) from the field and 8 of 20 from beyond the arc (40%). The Explorers out rebounded the Quakers 45 – 29. Penn shot 20 – 53 (37.7%) from the field and made 6 of 22 from three-point land.
La Salle improves to 7 – 6 on the season and evens their Big Five record at 1 – 1. The Explorers are preparing for a January 9th Atlantic 10 opening game against George Washington. The La Salle team feels they are starting to resemble last year’s team.
“That is what people were looking for all year,” said Duren. “It’s a good sign that our guards are shooting the ball a lot better.”
Meanwhile, Penn has lost seven straight games and are 2 – 10 on the season, 0 – 3 in city series play. The Red and Blue open the Ivy League portion of their schedule on January 11 against arch-rival Princeton.
“We’ve got to do whatever we can over the next six days to get ready to play for a league championship,” Allen said.
Written By: Glenn Papazian