THE SEASON certainly has not gone according to plans for La Salle. It could always be worse. See Penn for worse.
La Salle jumped the Quakers early on Saturday at the Palestra and never looked back, winning, 76-57.
The Explorers (7-6, 1-1 Big 5) got a sensational game from Jerrell Wright (21 points on 8-for-9 shooting from the field and 5-for-7 from the foul line). They also got 14 each from Tyrone Garland and Tyreek Duren, who loves playing at the Palestra. Duren is averaging 20.3 points in his last five Palestra games, shooting 15-for-22 from the arc.
Penn (2-10, 0-3) got 16 from Tony Hicks and 14 from Fran Dougherty. The Quakers are still missing big man Darien Nelson-Henry (concussion). Now, Julian Harrell, who had a great game at Rider on Dec. 29 with a career-best 23 points, has missed the last two games with a knee issue. He got an MRI on Friday and awaits results.
This was not particularly pretty as the teams combined for 33 turnovers. Penn shot just 37.7 percent. La Salle actually led, 58-23, and played about as well it has this season.
The Explorers start Atlantic 10 play at home on Thursday against dramatically improved George Washington (12-2). Penn gets Princeton (11-2) on Saturday at the Palestra before two final nonconference games precede the other 13 Ivy games.
5 straight for Hawks
A lesser team may have gone in the tank after getting abused by 30 points at home by its biggest rival. Since getting blown out by Villanova, Saint Joseph's has won five in a row.
The Hawks have not beaten any great teams, but they keep finding ways to win, sometimes with offense, sometimes with defense, sometimes by surviving.
Denver, with former Princeton coach Joe Scott, plays a Princeton-like offense and had SJU down 21-10 with 7 minutes left in the half. SJU, with its three seniors, junior point guard Chris Wilson and freshman forward DeAndre Bembry, never panicked, slowly working its way back into the game, eventually winning, 53-52.
SJU (9-4) shot just 18-for-48 (37.5 percent) from the field and 13-for-23 from the foul line. Senior Langston Galloway had 14 points. Fellow senior Ronald Roberts had nine points and 15 rebounds. They beat Denver (7-8) by 12 on the glass, got a reasonably comfortable second-half lead and held on by playing defense that was good enough to overcome all those missed free throws.
It is about to get a whole lot more difficult as A-10 play begins Wednesday. SJU starts at Massachusetts, which is 12-1 and has played every bit as good as its record.
Close loss for Owls
Temple keeps losing winnable games and keeps losing players. The Owls lost Mark Williams with a sprained ankle and lost at Central Florida, 78-76. Temple (5-7, 0-2 American) got an amazing game from point guard Will Cummings (31 points), but it didn't change the result.
Six of the Owls' losses have been by a combined 19 points. So it is not like they haven't been competitive. The problem is Louisville, Cincinnati and the rest of the league they are now in.
UCF (9-4, 1-1) got 23 points and 15 rebounds from Isaiah Sykes. Cummings almost neutralized that with 9-for-14 shooting overall, 3-3 from the arc and 10-for-10 from the foul line.
Temple trailed 8-0 and 20-6, but actually had a chance down the stretch. But, so far, it has been a Murphy's Law season. The Owls are a play here and a play there from maybe 10 wins. Instead, they are stuck on five.