IT IS A testimonial to La Salle point guard Tyreek Duren's unselfishness that he didn't know he was only one point from matching his career high when he was taken out of last night's 70-53 pasting of visiting Boston University with 1 minute, 52 seconds remaining, or that he chose not to force a try for a personal best during the Explorers' last several possessions before his final return to the bench.
"I didn't even know that," Duren, a 6-foot sophomore and product of Neumann-Goretti High, said when told he had finished with 23 points for the second time this season, one fewer than the 24 he posted in a 76-67 overtime loss at Villanova on Nov. 15.
That facilitator's mentality and his penchant for not calculating his scoring total as the game progresses have made Duren one of La Salle coach John Giannini's favorite players.
"The thing I've always loved about Tyreek Duren is that he always makes the right play," Giannini said after his team improved to 9-4 with its seventh victory in its last eight outings, and eighth straight success in Tom Gola Arena dating back to last season. "He's fine scoring zero points. He's fine scoring 23 points. He doesn't go out trying to score zero. He doesn't go out trying to score 20. He just goes out and tries to make the right play."
Actually, Duren did go into the matchup with the Terriers (4-9) with the idea he might have to shoot more, given that the Explorers were without starting guard Sam Mills, day-to-day with an injured ankle.
"I knew I had to be a little more aggressive, because we were playing without Sam," said Duren,who scored 15 of his points in the first half as La Salle broke out to a 43-29 lead at the break and stayed comfortably ahead thereafter, stretching its lead to 60-35 with 11:07 to play. He sank his first three shots from beyond the arc, and might have been headed to the first 30-point game of his college career when he throttled back after intermission and went back to the important business of setting up his teammates. In addition to his 23 points, Duren dished out five assists and turned the ball over only once in 36 minutes.
"He will do whatever the game calls for, which I think is the highest compliment you can give a point guard," Giannini said.
After posting back-to-back losing seasons, the new-look Explorers are now more about playing tough defense than padding their personal statistics, a refreshing change of pace to some who think this group has its priorities straight.
"We got people who are more devoted [to defense]," Duren said. "Last year, everybody just wanted to score. This year, we got a whole new team. We got rid of all the negative energy we had."
If that sounds like a backhanded slap at stat-conscious big man Aaric Murray, who transferred to West Virginia after a productive but tumultuous freshman season, feel free to draw your own conclusions, though Giannini stressed that "this is not a history class. We're not going into anything in the past."
Giannini is not above keeping track of certain numbers, one being his team's field-goal percentage defense. He was pleased for the most part that Boston U, with a roster loaded with seven players from the Philadelphia area, sank 20 of 50 field-goal attempts for 40 percent on the night.
"The way we broke it down, if you're in the 30s, you're awfully good," Giannini said. "In the 40s, you're pretty average and in the 50s, you probably stink. We were one play away from keeping the game in the 30s, and that's important to us."
The Terriers' big gun, Darryl Partin, is a transfer from La Salle who found the stardom in Boston he missed out on here. But Partin, who came in averaging 20.8 points, might have been trying too hard to give his old team a taste of what might have been, hitting only four of 16 shots and clanking all six of his three-point attempts en route to a 12-point night.
"We respect them," Giannini said of Boston U's Philly-flavored roster. "We recruited some of those kids. Darryl was here. Any time you have a good player who's coming back home, or coming back to his old school, that person is going to be highly motivated."