Last night, all three Atlantic 10 teams in Philadelphia were in action.
Temple snuck by a 3-15 Penn. team out of the Ivy League.
Saint Joseph’s lost by nine to 9-9 St. Bonaventure after trailing by as many as 25…
Oh, and La Salle knocked off ninth ranked Butler to improve to 3-2 in the Atlantic 10. Ramon Galloway connected on a lay-up with 2.7 seconds left to give La Salle the victory and quite possibly, help to push the Explorers from pretenders to contenders.
Although the calendar hasn’t yet turned over to February, it may be time to make a bold statement about the state of Philadelphia basketball: La Salle is the best team in the city. And we don’t just mean right now.
Duren, a Philly native has lead La Salle to a 3-2 A10 start. (Credit: La Salle Athletic Communications)
Predicted to win the Atlantic 10 back in October by the league’s coaches, Phil Martelli’s Saint Josephs team has been a colossal disappointment. At 10-7 and just 1-3 in A10 play, the Hawks chances of an at-large NCAA bid are now all but gone. Last night in a must -win home game against St. Bonaventure, the Hawks simply were embarrassing. Trailing by as many as 25 points in the first half, SJU eventually mounted a comeback but it was too little, too late. As Bonaventure boarded the bus back to Olean, they may as well have packed up Saint Joseph’s NCAA hopes with them. After owning the Bonnies for a decade, SBU has now ripped off three straight wins against the Hawks.
Temple, despite winning last night, has been less than impressive of late. At 2-2 in the A10, Temple has lost to those same Bonnies as well as well as Xavier. Fran Dunphy’s club stole a two point win at George Washington and won an impressive game at home against Saint Louis. But make no mistake, this is not the same Temple team of the last four years. This Temple team lacks a killer instinct. They lack a true floor general. Maybe it can’ be fully pinpointed yet but the Owls are just missing something. We knew they would miss captain and point guard Juan Fernandez, but maybe we didn’t know just how much. If Temple is going to revert to form and become a championship caliber team something must change quickly on Broad street.
So what of La Salle? What of the 13-5 (3-2) La Salle Explorers who own the biggest win in league play this season by downing Butler (minus Rotnei Clarke but, still, this is Butler). Why should we believe that La Salle is the best team in Philadelphia?
Believe in La Salle because right now La Salle has an RPI of 42 and boasts the best backcourt in the city. Ramon Galloway (16.4 points), Tyreek Duren (14.4 points) and Sam Mills (7.3 points) are the engine that makes the explorers go. And already productive and deep backcourt got even stronger when Va. Tech. transfer Tyrone Garland (13.6 points) become eligible giving the Explorers four quality guards to rotate. And if we know only one thing about college basketball it’s that guards win big games. Stack La Salle’s backcourt against any in the city and you’d be foolish to take anyone but the Galloway-Duren-Mills-Garland crew.
That may not have been the case in September, but it is now.
On the interior La Salle was supposed to be paper thin. Jerrell Wright was the only “known” big body they had to rebound and score on the blocks. Well, Wright has held up his end of the deal (10.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 55% from the field) but Steve Zack has emerged as well (7.2 points, 6.2 rebounds in just 22 minutes a game) to give La Salle a competent duo in the pivot. Dr. John Gianninni’s club will never be other-worldly in the post this year, but they can be at least respectable which enables their offense to have balance and improve spacing.
Could this finally be the year that La Salle breaks through? The year they stop taking a backseat to Temple and Saint Joseph’s in March? If last night is any indication, it seems that the Explorers are poised to seize the moment… and the city of Philadelphia.
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