LA SALLE has bigger players than Drexel. Faster, more skilled, better shooters, stronger, older too.
Sometimes, basketball results are complicated by unseen factors. Sometimes, the only question is the final score.
Drexel's undermanned team, changing styles slowly under new coach Zach Spiker, was always game Sunday afternoon at the DAC. But it was La Salle's game from start to finish, the final score 89-78.
In the season's first three games, a close win and two losses that surely could have been wins, La Salle coach John Giannini started 11 different players. Five of his seven best players were on the floor for the jump ball against the Dragons. It was 36-16 after 13 minutes, La Salle getting about any shot it wanted and making a vast majority of them.
La Salle (2-2) led by as many as 23 in the second half and by double figures for the game's final 31 minutes. The Dragons (2-4) closed to within 11 twice, including the final score. The second half was mostly played between 15 and 20 points.
The win ended an eight-game losing streak against city teams for La Salle (nine if you count the exhibition loss to Philadelphia University last season). Almost all of those losses were by an outmanned team. These Explorers are decidedly not outmanned.
La Salle, which shot 13-for-21 from the arc, has multiple three-point shooters.
"Anytime a team goes 13-for-21, you are going to be on the bottom side of the scoreboard," Spiker said.
When asked about 61.9 percent shooting from the arc, Giannini said: "I think three-point shooting is as important if not more important than any statistic in basketball."
La Salle senior Cleon Roberts (game-high 22 points) did not make a two-point shot but did not miss a three until his final attempt. He was 6-for-6 after going 4-for-4 against Texas Southern in the previous game.
Ever make 10 in a row?
"Probably in practice, working out," Roberts said. "It was basically my teammates. As you see, they were catch-and-shoot threes. They found me, they got me open. I just finished it off."
La Salle had five in double figures, including Jordan Price (20 points on a very efficient 12 shots). La Salle shot 54.2 percent, but only took 59 shots because they had 19 turnovers.
"We've already played four games and two of them have come down to the last play of the game," Giannini said. "I just don't think you can win consistently at this level with self-inflicted wounds. If we clean up those few plays, we have a really good team."
Left unsaid was that without late-game mistakes, La Salle would be 4-0. This game was never in danger of a bad ending, but the point remains the point.
Drexel is a long way from what it will be in a few seasons when Spiker gets a chance to coach a team better equipped to play his free-flowing style.
The Dragons have some interesting young pieces, especially attacking freshman point Kurk Lee who played all but three minutes, while scoring 21 points to go along with five assists, three rebounds and three steals.
"He is what his numbers say he is," Spiker said. "He's a guy that can be a big piece to our success here this season and in the future."
It did not help the Dragons that leading scorer Rodney Williams (17.4 points) was in foul trouble all game, only playing 19 minutes before fouling out with just seven points.
Drexel had a 51-point second half because it played with passion and shot the three, 7-for-11 in the final 20 minutes.
"As coaches, it's our job to evaluate and be critical," Spiker said. "We also need to celebrate the things we did well."
That second half was where Drexel wants to be eventually.
"If we keep making new mistakes, eventually we run out of mistakes to make," Spiker said. "So let's make some mistakes, let's learn from it and let's move on . . . We're going to continue to pour into this group and know that they accept coaching, have the right attitude, we can make progress and we can be something everybody's proud of by the end of the season."