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Jerardi: Owls trending toward close games

MY FOUR No. 1 seeds if the NCAA Tournament selections were now: East, Villanova; South, Duke; Midwest, Baylor; West, UCLA.

MY FOUR No. 1 seeds if the NCAA Tournament selections were now:

East, Villanova; South, Duke; Midwest, Baylor; West, UCLA.

Temple has played 12 games. Eight of them have been decided by six points or fewer. After beating NJIT, 68-63, Saturday at the Liacouras Center, the living-dangerously Owls (8-4) are 5-3 in those close games.

This latest win was a dead heat with 45 seconds left, 63-63, until Temple scored the game's final five points.

Oddball stat: Temple committed 12 personal fouls and NJIT shot just three free throws. NJIT committed 14 personals and the Owls shot 18 free throws. Always better to get fouled while shooting.

Temple led 56-47 with 5 1/2 minutes left before NJIT (5-8) made a late run behind the scoring of Damon Lynn (25 points, reached 2,000 for his career).

Temple is shooting a solid 38.8 percent from the arc, 51st nationally. The Owls were 7-for-18 against NJIT, which made 13 threes, but took 33 of them.

Owls point guard Josh Brown, who came back amazingly fast from his spring Achilles' injury, did not play and could still take a medical redshirt if the soreness that kept him out persists.

Johnson lifts La Salle

La Salle can score with just about any team in the country. The Explorers can also be scored on by just about anybody.

That was all on full display at Gola Arena in a wild game against Florida Gulf Coast highlighted by a career day from redshirt junior B.J. Johnson. He had 35 points, 28 in the second half, making one big shot after another as La Salle (5-4), playing from behind much of the second half, never stopped scoring and won, 84-80.

It was a Sunday night in March four seasons ago that just about simultaneously, La Salle in Kansas City and FGC at the Wells Fargo Center clinched unlikely spots in the 2013 Sweet 16. Each team played wide open then and played wide open against each other. FGC is 7-5, but played unbeaten Baylor tough on the road and lost by one point at Michigan State.

Johnson, who has been the scoring companion Jordan Price has needed, got his 35 points on just 16 shots, going 10-for-16 overall, 3-for-6 from the arc and 12-for-14 from the free throw line, about as efficient a scoring game as you can have.

La Salle, after scoring those 84 points on 69 possessions (1.22 points per possession), is rocketing up the offensive efficiency charts, now 43rd nationally at 1.11 PPP.

Unfortunately, they also have the second biggest gap between their offensive and defensive numbers among the top 50 offenses, allowing teams to score 1.06 PPP, 222th nationally. Only Marshall, coached by Mike D'Antoni's brother Dan, has a bigger differential.

However this season plays out for La Salle, there is no doubt about one element: It is going to be exciting.