A week-long break put a little pep in the step of La Salle. The Explorers’ energy and effort were evident from the opening tip.
Freshman guard Ayinde Hikim set the tone early when he was standing on the weak-side behind Bucknell’s 6-foot-9 center, Paul Newman. Newman grabbed the rebound over the 5-11 Hikim, but the La Salle guard wrestled the ball away and caused a foul. Hikim scored on a left-handed layup on the next possession and caused a Bucknell turnover in the backcourt seconds later as he let out a passionate scream.
That energy was displayed throughout the game in La Salle’s 71-59 win over Bucknell (4-9). The Explorers (9-3) caused seven turnovers over a four-minute stretch early in the first half that led to a 13-0 run.
The defensive intensity made the Explorers look a step faster. Hikim finished with five of the Explorers’ 13 steals.
Keys to the game
Bucknell’s offense struggled to get comfortable. La Salle harassed the Bison for nearly 30 seconds on most possessions and forced 23 turnovers. The Explorers held the Bison to 35% shooting.
Jared Kimbrough led the Explorers with a career-high 16 points on his 20th birthday. Isiah Deas scored 15 points, David Beatty 11, and Ed Croswell 10.
Newman, a Philly native from Roman Catholic High School, finished with five points off the bench for Bucknell. Jimmy Sotos led the Bison with 17 points.
“I feel like we can really lock everybody down," La Salle forward Jared Kimbrough said. “I feel like we can really do some damage on defense.”
“I feel like we play really well in spurts,” La Salle coach Ash Howard said. “I’m still waiting on our team to put together a 40-minute effort.”
“Coach Ash preaches that we have a chance to be one of the top defenses in the nation, so we take pride in that,” Kimbrough said.
La Salle has been the stingiest defense in A-10 this season, holding opponents to 39.2% shooting entering its matchup with the Bison. That defensive effort is the biggest reason for the 9-3 start. La Salle’s defensive performance against the Bison was its best this season.
Offensively, La Salle was in the holiday spirit in the second half. The Explorers gave away 11 of their 16 turnovers in the second half due to a bevy of sloppy passes. Bucknell finished the game with 11 steals.
The Explorers have a five-game winning streak and held each of the opponents under 70 points. They are 7-0 when holding opponents below 70. The winning streak is the Explorers’ longest since January 2017.