LA SALLE wounded Penn State with three-pointers from beyond the arc, but eventually put the Lions away with the old-fashioned kind.
Tyreek Duren continued his splendid run with a career-high 29 points Wednesday night as the Explorers eventually dispatched Penn State, 82-57, in front of a sparse, yet energetic crowd at the Palestra. You should have come by. There were three people in Section 217. The announced attendance was 4,382.
La Salle made 16 threes, but it was a pair of three-point plays in the second half by Duren that put the Explorers in control. The second came after he picked Penn State's Jermaine Marshall clean, drove the court, hit the layup and drew the foul on Marshall. That put the Explorers up 17 and demoralized the shorthanded Lions.
"I was just playing within the flow of the game,'' Duren said simply.
"I liked the and-ones. Definitely,'' said teammate Ramon Galloway. "They got me hyped. I don't even remember if I was in the game.''
Penn State (4-4), coached by former Villanova assistant Patrick Chambers, was playing without Tim Frazier, considered by many as the top point guard in the Big Ten. Frazier tore his Achilles' tendon in the third game of the season and will miss the rest of the year.
The Explorers feasted on the vacancy, especially after halftime when they outscored the Nits, 44-23.
"At some point you just hope they stop making threes,'' Chambers said. "I think that's the best they shot all season.''
La Salle coach John Giannini was thrilled with the first 15 three-pointers his team hit, but irate with the 16th. As the clock wound down and the rout was nearly complete, walk-on guard O.J. Lewis heaved one from the wing for the first points of his career and the final points of the game. It was an unnecessary shot and it infuriated the coach.
"I want to apologize to Penn State for that last shot. We're real disappointed in that,'' Giannini said. "But I want to emphasize O.J.'s a great kid. It's the first time he ever got onto a college court. I think he just got a little excited.''
It was one of the few mistakes the Explorers made all night. They had 16 assists on their 24 field goals and just four turnovers. Galloway and Sam Mills each chipped in 14 points to support Duren's monster evening.
La Salle improved to 5-1 and can boast of owning wins against teams from the Big East (Villanova) and the Big Ten (Penn State). Who cares if those teams figure to live at or near the basement of those powerful conferences this season.
Adding more firepower
La Salle's excellent backcourt is about to get even better with the addition of Tyrone Garland, one of the top scorers in the history of the Philadelphia Public League.
Garland, a Bartram grad who is fourth on the Pub's all-time points list behind Maureece Rice, Maurice Watson and that Chamberlain fellow, started his collegiate career at Virginia Tech before transferring to 20th and Olney last fall. He has one more game before his mandatory 1-year transfer waiting period is up.
La Salle plays at Northeastern on Saturday. Garland will be eligible to make his debut on Dec. 15 at Bucknell.
Garland was all-academic as a freshman at Va. Tech and made the move to increase his chances for more playing time. Seems like a wise decision since Virginia Tech is 7-0 and two of its top three leading scorers are guards Erick Green (24.9) and Robert Brown (13.4).
Wednesday night's game was the first of two 9 o'clock tipoffs for the Explorers. The other is Jan. 2 at Miami . . . The game was the first meeting between La Salle and Penn State since Dec. 27, 1986 - 5 days before the Nittany Lions football team stunned Miami to capture its last football championship. The first La Salle-Penn State game was in 1954 when the Explorers beat the Lions in the Final Four and won the NCAA title the next night by beating Bradley . . . John Johnson, who played at Girard College and Life Center Academy in South Jersey, announced earlier this week that he will transfer from Pittsburgh to Penn State. He will be eligible after the 2013 fall semester . . . La Salle will play at Penn State next season. The Explorers never have played up there.