Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nova Survives Hard Luck La Salle

Sunday afternoon's game between Villanova and La Salle was your typical Big 5 battle, a hard-fought, back and forth brawl. The 12th ranked Wildcats managed to escape Tom Gola Arena with an 84-81 win. As a Nova fan, this was a game that I had some concerns about and wasn't particularly looking forward too, which I'll elaborate on later, but as a Philadelphia basketball fan I was incredibly excited to see.

Some of my concerns manifested themselves immediately. Nova has not been shooting the ball particularly well all season, as evidenced by their 44.2% shooting percentage which ranks 159th in the nation. In their only loss this season, to Tennessee, Nova shot an abysmal 34.5% and just 19% from three. They have looked completely lost at times this season when the jump shots haven't been falling. On Sunday, they managed to hit only 1 of their first 15 shots from the floor, missing all five attempts from behind the arc. And to make matters worse, when they weren't missing shots they were being careless with the ball, throwing it everywhere but to each other. They managed to commit 4 turnovers during that horrific stretch of shooting.

Meanwhile La Salle took advantage, riding Nova's struggles and mistakes and momentum from a loud, upset-minded sellout crowd at home to an early 14 point lead. Jerrell Williams and Sam Mills were leading the way for La Salle, and Nova looked lost. Despite the troubles they kept playing hard and manged to find a little bit of touch from the floor and somehow took a 1 point lead into the half.

The second half was back and forth with the teams trading blows. Villanova tightened up defensively, forcing the Explorers to miss 6 of their final 8 shots and forcing them into some big turnovers in the final minutes. La Salle was hurt by the foul troubles of Aaric Murray, the team's best player, who managed only 4 points in just 12 minutes of action. Villanova hung tough and played through the early struggles and was able to gut out a win against a very game team. Maalik Wayns played well in the second half, Mouphtaou Yarou was all over the glass, and they had balance with 5 players scoring in double figures. It wasn't pretty but I'm gonna take the optimistic route and choose to be encouraged that they were able to win a game where they played nowhere near their best.

I had mentioned to my dad earlier in the week that I wasn't looking forward to seeing LaSalle at this point, because they are due for a big win. The Explorers are now 6-4 on the season. Those four losses are at #17 Baylor, vs. #11 Missouri, vs. Oklahoma St. (who is 7-1), and vs. #12 Villanova. La Salle was in every one of those games. They were within 5 of Baylor late in the second half before falling by 10, were tied at the half with Missouri and held brief second half leads before falling by 12, took Oklahoma St. to double overtime, and then gave Villanova all it could handle.

I think Sunday would have been La Salle's breakthrough if Murray had been able to stay on the court. Unfortunately for the Explorers, Temple is most likely the only ranked opponent they will face the rest of the season, so they will have to try to get those 2 wins against the Owls and then take out their frustration on the rest of the A10. On the positive side for La Salle these are the kinds of games and tests that can make you better later in the season and even into future seasons. They have a lot of underclassmen on the roster. They will lose Ruben Guillandeaux and Jerrell Williams, but Murray is only a junior, and Sam Mills and Tyreek Duren are only freshman. La Salle is going the right direction and are no longer pushovers in the Big 5 or the A10, and I'm excited to watch their development. It's nice to have a third team join Villanova and Temple in Big 5 relevance.

1 comment:

  1. La Salle is definitely on the rise, but there's a chance Murray could leave after the season. He is projected as a first-round pick after all. It sure would be nice to see him stay in Philadelphia and become a Sixer some day with his tremendous defense and rebounding to go along with plenty of potential.