Pookie Powell has a way of making the extraordinary like normal.
When Powell gets into the paint, La Salle's 6-foot guard isn't likely to throw down a monster dunk.
But the redshirt junior has a special knack for converting near the rim in a way that's seemingly impossible to even some of his teammates, maneuvering his way through taller defenders, adjusting his body and putting just the right spin on the ball for an easy bucket.
"Maybe to you or me it would be difficult, but it's not to him," Explorers' head coach John Giannini said.
Powell got to the bucket several times and also knocked down a number of jumpers on Saturday as the Explorers picked up an 83-60 victory against St. Louis at Tom Gola Arena.
With senior forward B.J. Johnson out for the second straight game, Powell scored 28 points to lead La Salle (7-7) to a win in its first Atlantic Ten Conference game of the season.
"I'm just watching the show," said Explorers senior guard Amar Stukes, who added 20 points of his own. "Some of the shots, I'm surprised they go in sometimes. But I've seen Pookie do it for a while so far, so I'm getting kind of used to it."
Johnson is La Salle's leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 21.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest. He went down with an ankle injury in the second half of the team's win against Mercer on Dec. 17. Giannini said after Saturday's win he is not sure when Johnson will return.
Powell, who went into Saturday averaging 17.1 points per game, has risen to the occasion in Johnson's absence. Saturday's 28-point performance was Powell's third straight 20-plus-point effort and fourth such outing of the season.
He scored 24 points in the win against Mercer, when Johnson went down in the second half, and followed with 29 in a loss to Bucknell, La Salle's first game without Johnson. In La Salle's last three contests, Powell is averaging 27 points and shooting 56 percent from the field.
"We know when [Johnson] went down, we had to step it up," Powell said.
Powell looked like he might be hurt himself early in Saturday's game. After scoring his second basket on a drive to the rim, he rolled his ankle on his way to the floor and headed to the sideline around the 17-minute mark.
He walked the injury off behind the Explorers' bench, and a minute later Powell let Giannini know he was good to go.
When Powell re-entered the game with 10 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first half, he showed no signs the ankle was bothering him, scoring 10 points to finish the first half with 14. Powell scored or assisted on La Salle's final 10 points of the first half as La Salle closed the period on a 21-5 run to take a 44-29 lead into halftime.
Powell carried the momentum into the second half, scoring 10 of the Explorers' first 12 points to give the team a 30-point advantage before the first media timeout. St. Louis senior guard Davell Roby had to grab Powell for a foul to slow him down and force the stoppage.
Powell finished 12 of 19 from the floor, including 3 of 4 from three-point range. Even though he is scoring at a prolific rate, he has not been forcing things on the offensive end. The win against St. Louis was not only his third straight 20-plus-point outing, it was his third straight game shooting 50 percent or better from the floor. He is also 9 of 17 from three-point range in the three contests.
"I'm just taking all the shots that are comfortable for me," Powell said. "That is open shots. Coach G wants me to do a lot of catch and shoot, and that's what we work on in practice, and we try to translate it to the game."