This Big 5 game was nuts, the end of regulation crazier, and Ryan Daly’s 2021 debut? Maybe his craziest career highlight — 30 points in this Big 5 epic over La Salle, a 91-82 Hawk Hill overtime thriller that far exceeded any records going in.
Daly had not played a minute this season since “tearing my thumb” four days before Christmas. He still hasn’t fully practiced.
The craziest part?
“Yeah, I didn’t think I was going to play today until yesterday,” Daly said when asked if there were times he thought his season was over. “We didn’t work me in to five-on-five [practices] because I really wasn’t sure. Then I went home yesterday, took my [wrap] off. Truthfully, I started kind of hitting my hand, just to see how much I could take. I don’t know if that’s risky or crazy.”
Punching his own thumb?
“Yo, let me see how I can take, or tolerate,” Daly said of this little experiment. “I throw a decent punch, and I was punching it, and it responded well. I called Coach right away, I was like, ‘Hey, I kind of want to play tomorrow.’”
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose, and maybe that’s where St. Joseph’s is right now, one win on the season coming in, except if Ryan Daly says he’s ready to play some ball, you don’t blink, whatever the circumstances.
“Literally, he has not practiced yet,” said Hawks coach Billy Lange, giving credit to his strength and conditioning and training staff, bringing up the many steps Daly ran during practice, how he kept up his conditioning, then just worked in a little two-on-two with the assistant coaches.
“He was able to keep up his cardio,” Lange said. “I thought he’d be in shape, and I knew he’d be connected. The rust and the fundamentals and all that stuff — if Ryan was a freshman would he have played like this? Maybe not. But in his fifth year of basketball, he’s able to get in there and he just played very fundamental. He was a great Hawk tonight.”
This season, freshman Jordan Hall has had the ball in his hands. Hall still had the ball at the end of regulation, 3.9 seconds left, needing to go fullcourt — a play called DePaul, Lange reported later, for Hawks historians, a nod to the most momentous SJU victory of the last 40 years. Hall kept the ball and drove to the rim and got a last-second goaltending call that pushed the game into OT. Hall finished with the first triple-double of his career.
Daly said he didn’t want to overstep anything. His presence had to let the rest of them know everyone could do a little less and it would result in a little more. A few minutes in, Daly’s first drive resulted in some contact, like so many Daly drives. Block or charge? Charge. He gave up a drive at the other end, missed a shot of his own, got a foul call, but missed both free throws as La Salle built a 17-11 lead.
Then Daly achieved liftoff. He hit a deep transition three from the left side, his first hoop of 2021. That told him, he said, “Let’s go, let’s go, you’ve got your rust off.”
By the end, he’d made 10 of 13 two-pointers, and half of the six three-pointers he tried. More life for the Hawks in OT included Daly buckets on four straight possessions as St. Joe’s took control.
“That’s what he does,” Hall said later.
“That game was wild,” Daly said. “There were times where I thought we were going to pull away, times I thought they were going to pull away. We just stuck with it, just like they did. It was a great Big 5 Philly basketball game.”
Of the whole experience, which included some pregame nausea, Daly said: “I can’t really believe — there were times like this morning where I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m about to play.’” I was so used to not playing. The coaches have done an unbelievable job of keeping me engaged, and everybody in this program, because I’m kind of crazy. Without basketball, I was losing my mind.”
Even if he’d gone down the first play and jammed his thumb, Daly said, “It would have been worth it.”