My weekly observations, Vol. 7:
Drexel had opened a little door Saturday afternoon inside the Palestra. Maybe the game wasn’t over. Maybe Temple didn’t have this yet, 8 ½ minutes left, a little 7-0 Dragons run cutting Temple’s lead to six.
“All the high basketball IQ guys in the building, it doesn’t take much to know where the ball is going,’’ said Drexel coach Zach Spiker.
Shizz Alston, in the corner.
“We were there, making a move,’’ Spiker said, but Alston was in the left corner, in front of Temple’s bench. A move-stopper.
When they vote for Big 5 player of the year, Alston’s name will be central to the conversation to the end. Temple obviously isn’t 10-2 without a guy who had 25 points and no turnovers Saturday, not trying to do too much, seeing the floor, his own space and everyone else’s place on the court. At the other end, Alston added three steals. Then there’s the stuff we don’t really see.
“Now, it’s to the point where you’re allowing him to sort of run the show out there," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "'What do you want to run? Where do you want this screen set? How do you feel about the high screen and roll? Is the lift guy going to be OK?’ You have that kind of conversation. He really gets college basketball.”
“People are really listening to him,’’ said Nate Pierre-Louis, who had a huge game of his own, continually getting to the rim, scoring 22 points. He touched on Alston as a coach on the floor when he mentioned that “Shizz told me I can’t guard everyone the same way,’’ how sometimes he has to back off an opposing guard a little bit, pick his spots.
City 6 player of the early season, the 2018 portion of the 2018-19 season? Let’s go with Alston.
… Penn, and it wasn’t close. Beating Villanova made that the easy pick, but could the Quakers then go out to New Mexico’s fabled Pit and take out the Lobos? That seemed a little much, even if this year New Mexico isn’t an NCAA contender.
If you’d told me Penn made only 6-of-20 threes and committed 14 turnovers, I’d have said, congrats to the Lobos.
Except Penn’s defense is big-time against any opponent, and AJ Brodeur and Michael Wang, big-time contenders themselves for Big 5 player of the year and rookie of the year respectively, combined to make 17-of-25 two-pointers. The Quakers roll on.
Charlie Brown was back for St. Joseph’s from a sprained ankle. The frustration on Brown’s face was obvious as he tried to get going. It just wasn’t happening. Brown, another serious Big 5 player-of-the year candidate, might have needed this shake off the cobwebs game to get back in his rhythm.
We’ll go with Villanova’s Jahvon Quinerly producing off the bench in Saturday’s win over Connecticut, since the freshman obviously needed a boost. And if he can get into a rhythm, that’s no small thing overall for the Wildcats, who were missing Collin Gillespie against UConn. Quinerly doesn’t have to be a star as a freshman. Providing useful minutes is plenty enough, especially after his Instragram misstep.
Against Temple, Drexel’s Tim Perry Jr. absolutely looked like a player who can help the Dragons. Not trying to do too much, but if Perry has the ball near the basket, it’s going in. Rebounds? He’ll get you those. A nice under-the-radar bench piece for now, with a future.
La Salle got itself a win, and then another one. Pookie Powell back from an injury is a big deal. Jack Clark continuing to help is another big deal. The return of Saul Phiri makes the Explorers intact. And the winless streak is behind. The Explorers can just play ball. And Ashley Howard presumably got a decent night’s sleep.