IF YOU happened by Gola Arena Thursday night, you took a trip back in time to the 1970s, when coaches often sat back and watched players run, letting possessions happen rather than trying to control them. Iona came to town playing the 14th-fastest pace in America. La Salle was more than happy to oblige, playing Iona's pace and upping the ante.
The typical college game these days has 67 possessions for each side. This game had 44 by halftime and 80 over the 40 minutes. The shot clock was irrelevant. One team was going to hit the physical wall and the other was going to run through it. Iona hit it. La Salle stopped running only in the final minutes, when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
The Explorers won it, 88-74. It was about as much fun as the score makes it sound.
Ramon Galloway, La Salle coach John Giannini said, had the best half he'd ever seen him play. And it was not the first half, when he scored all 21 of his points. It was the second, when he took one shot, but defended everywhere and made every correct play, getting seven of his career-best 10 assists.
Former Public League scoring machine Tyrone Garland, playing only his second game for La Salle after transferring from Virginia Tech and having to sit out an entire year, could make nothing in the first half.
"I started off making a house," Garland said. "But they told me to keep shooting."
That would be a house of bricks. Gola was a quite comfortable house in the second half, when Garland went off, scoring 14 consecutive points in one 4 1/2-minute stretch as La Salle made a tight game not so tight. He had many scoring runs just like that at Bartram.
"I used to do it in high school," said Garland, who finished with a game-high 26. "It kind of felt like high school. It just felt good."
Iona (5-5) was the only team in America with two 20-point scorers. Lamont Jones finished with 19 points and Sean Armand had 15. So they were defended about as well as anybody has defended them. Transfer David Laury, playing his first game for Iona, was a revelation. Even though he was clearly tiring, he had 21 points and 14 rebounds in 26 minutes. Good luck to the Metro Atlantic teams trying to guard the big man with all-court skills.
More than anything, La Salle (7-2) has skill. Garland just adds to it.
"Their scouting report on him was that they played 50 feet off him," Giannini said. "They let him shoot every time. That's a very uncomfortable position for a player to be in . . . You can't believe you're so open."
Garland eventually got comfortable with some terrific drives, wonderful moves without the ball and three second-half threes.
The Explorers can now play four guards, as they did most of last season. Or use two bigs with three guards.
"The commonality [with the guards] is they can all defend, dribble, pass and shoot," Giannini said. "Tyrone's strength is that he's probably the fastest of the bunch."
La Salle might not have looked tired. But point guard Tyreek Duren, who never looks tired, insisted he definitely was, especially during one wild first-half stretch in which the whistle never blew and the ball went from end to end in seconds.
"I got tired in the first half," said Duren, who finished with 13 points. "We went for like 2 straight minutes. That one when I dove for the ball, I didn't want to get up."
He got up.
La Salle big men Jerrell Wright (13 points) and Steve Zack combined for 18 rebounds. Iona missed 40 shots and had 16 turnovers, which gave La Salle a chance to get the ball and go.
"[Giannini] was explaining how much they shoot the ball. 'The last game they shot  threes; there was going to be long rebounds, so we just need to get the ball and go,' " Galloway said.
So they did.
Two NBA scouts were in the house - the Sixers' Courtney Witte and La Salle grad John Carideo, who was there specifically to see Galloway. He had to be impressed.
How many players in history have scored 21 in a half and taken one shot in the next half?
"If the only way you can help your team is scoring, I think that's not a good formula for teams," Giannini said. "When your leading scorer, that's all he does is score, not good. Our leading scorer passed, defended and led."