Big 5 Hoops Weekend Recap – La Salle, Nova Cruise; Temple Rallies

Ramon Galloway slams for La Salle.Considering three of the Philadelphia Big 5 men’s college basketball teams have a legitimate chance of earning trips to the 2013 NCAA Tournament, college hoops in Philly is alive and well.  With Villanova and Temple gaining valuable tournament experience over the last decade, La Salle has not made the Big Dance since 1992.  This year however, it is the Explorers that can arguably claim the title as Philly’s best.

All three of those teams improved their chances of earning tournament bids this past weekend, as Villanova and La Salle easily defeated their opponents, while Temple escaped with a comeback victory, in a game which included a bazaar finish, thanks in large part to the officiating.

Villanova vs. South Florida – Saturday, 2/9

Villanova, coming off a blowout win on the road against the DePaul Blue Demons on Tuesday, returned home to the Main Line Saturday afternoon to take on the Big East’s last place South Florida Bulls in a game that if the Wildcats were to lose, would seriously jeopardize any chance of them earning an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.  Villanova (15-9 overall, 6-5 Big East) put to rest early any such concerns, as they jumped out to an early lead and never looked back against the shorthanded Bulls (1-10, 10-13), who were without leading scorer Victor Rudd, sidelined with a groin injury.

Villanova limited the Bulls to 11 field goals, 23 percent field goal shooting, and 40 total points in what was, from a statistical standpoint, its best defensive effort of the season.

Anthony Collins dropped in a short jumper to open the scoring for USF before Villanova responded with a 12-0 run, capped by a driving layup and subsequent free throw from Junior guard Tony Chennault that gave the `Cats a 12-2 lead after just over four minutes had elapsed in the first half.

A 3-pointer from the Bulls’ Jawanza Poland pulled USF to within five, 16-11, which turned out to be the closest they would get to the white-hot Wildcats for the rest of the game.  ’Nova sank 6 of their first 8 shots en-route to a 21-11 advantage at the under-12 media timeout, and then held the Bulls without a field goal for the final 9:11 of the first half finishing on a 23-5 surge, giving them a 39-16 lead at the break.

It didn’t appear as though South Florida could play any worse after the first 20 minutes, however they then proceeded to miss 8 of their first 10 shots in the second half, and the rout was on for the Wildcats.  Two 3-point baskets by Darrun Hilliard and suffocating man-to-man defense over the first eight minutes allowed the home team to take a 50-20 lead, its largest of the season.  The advantage grew to as many as 31 points before ending in a 68-40 final.

The 40 points allowed were the second fewest ever scored by an opponent at the Pavilion, which opened on Feb. 1, 1986.  VU downed Stony Brook 78-35 in 2005.

“This is an inexperienced team that is very coachable,” noted Villanova head coach Jay Wright.  ”Every experience it has together is an important one.  Having a lead like this at halftime and coming out in the second half and taking care of business is new.  We have had some leads at the half and not come out and taken care of business.  This was a good step for us.”

Darrun Hilliard continued his impressive play in leading the Wildcats with 17 points on 6 of 8 shooting, including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.  Senior Mouphtaou Yarou just missed a double-double, finishing with 9 points and 10 rebounds, while Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono continued his improvement, compiling 4 assists and no turnovers, as well as providing stifling defense on USF’s best player, PG Anthony Collins. Sophomore JayVaughn Pinkston added 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 23 minutes off the bench, and Sophomore Achraf Yacoubou chipped in 8 points in just 16 minutes, including nailing 2 of 2 from 3-point range.

The going gets tougher for the Wildcats as they travel to Cincinnati on Tuesday night to take on the 17th-ranked Bearcats (18-6 overall, 6-5 Big East), who most recently fell at home to 23rd-ranked Pittsburgh, 62-52 on Saturday.  Winning a Big East road game against a ranked opponent would be big for Villanova in terms of their NCAA Tournament resume.  Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 PM and can be seen on PHL17.

La Salle vs. Fordham – Saturday, 2/9

It was raining 3′s at Tom Gola Arena on Saturday afternoon as La Salle tied a school record with 18 of them in an 89-53 victory over Fordham.  The Explorers drained their first 8 attempts from beyond the arc during their impressive display.  Junior Sam Mills led all scorers with a career-high 21 points, sinking an incredible 7 of 8 from three, and Senior Ramon Galloway added 19 points (5-7 3PT) and six assists.

The 18 three-pointers are the most nationally by any team this season and the most by any Division I team since Longwood made 20 vs. VMI on December 20, 2011.

The Explorers (16-6 overall, 6-3 A-10) entered the half comfortably up 56-25 behind a 58 percent (19-33) mark from the field and an unconscious 13-19 (68 percent) line from three.  Rather than letting up in the second period, the Explorers opened the half on a 24-10 run and led 80-35 at the 9:05 mark.

La Salle finished the afternoon at 48 percent (30-73) from the field, 55 percent (18-33) from three, and 11-14 (79 percent) from the free throw line. The Explorers were credited with 22 team assists, its second highest tally of the year.

Fordham was stymied all game long, converting 35 percent (20-58) of its field goals, 19 percent (3-16) of its threes, and 10-13 (77 percent) from the charity stripe.  The Rams coughed up 14 turnovers and forced only eight.

Juniors Tyrone Garland and Tyreek Duren also posted double-digit scoring outputs for the Explorers, with each recording 17 and 16 points respectively.  Duren had a perfect day shooting the ball, going 5 for 5 from the field and 4 for 4 from beyond the arc.  He also tallied a game-high eight assists and committed only one turnover.  Sophomores Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright led La Salle on the glass, each grabbing 7 rebounds.

The Explorers will look for a third consecutive victory on Wednesday evening at St. Bonaventure.

Temple at Dayton – Saturday, 2/9

Everyone at the University of Dayton Arena knew that Khalif Wyatt was going to take the final shot for the Owls, but the Senior guard with ice in his veins was not to be denied.  Despite being tightly-guarded by Vee Sanford, Wyatt drained a long three with 7.1 seconds remaining to cap an improbable comeback and lead the Owls to a 72-71 win on the road at Dayton Saturday afternoon.  With the win, Temple improves to 16-7 and 5-4 in the Atlantic-10 Conference.  Dayton meanwhile, fell to 13-10 and 3-6.

Wyatt’s triple capped a 14-3 Temple run over the final 4:31 that wiped away a 10-point deficit.  Scootie Randall and Jake O’Brien drained huge threes following a Will Cummings free throw to jump start the stretch drive.  Randall, who scored five of his six points in the run, added a jumper to cut the margin to two, 69-67, with 1:49 remaining.

After the Flyers’ Devin Oliver hit a jumper in the lane to make it 71-67, Wyatt found a cutting Anthony Lee with a beautiful no-look pass to make it 71-69.

Temple then played strong defense on the ensuing possession, trapping Dayton guard Kevin Dillard at mid-court and forcing the preseason first team all-Conference performer to travel, which setup Wyatt’s game-winning heroics.

Following a timeout, Dayton pushed the ball to center court, but Dillard lost it again for his second miscue in the final 20 seconds.

Then all hell broke loose.

First, with just seconds remaining in the game, the Flyers fouled Scootie Randall after he received the in-bounds pass with 1.6 seconds left, with the idea of stopping the clock and forcing Temple to make free throws.  Replays however clearly showed that Randall wasn’t touched, so if the call was made correctly, the Owls should have been able to run the clock out right then and there.  Regardless, the Senior swingman missed both shots, giving Dayton a lot more daylight than Temple fans had hoped.

In one of the worst calls made this season, Temple’s Anthony Lee was whistled for a dead-ball foul on Dayton’s Josh Benson on the following in-bounds play.  In a 1-point game, this stopped the clock, gave the Flyers two free-throws with less than 2 seconds remaining, and a chance to win the game without having to properly make a successful in-bounds pass, rush up the court and get off a good shot, all within 1.5 seconds.  Replays showed that Lee did not commit anything close to what could have been called a foul.

Josh Benson, who had made 2 of 5 thus far in the game, proceeded to miss both free throws, which perhaps was justice being served, and the game remained 72-71.  The Owls’ Jake O’Brien, who was fouled on the rebound with 1.3 seconds remaining, missed his first free throw, and then intentionally missed the second, which is often a good strategy for the winning team, except for the fact that he failed to hit the rim, which results in a turnover, giving Dayton the ball, and yet another chance.

Rahlir Jefferson deflected the in-bounds pass to mercifully end the game, allowing the Owls to hold on for a huge win in one of the A-10′s toughest arenas.  The Flyers had won three straight home conference games, and six of seven dating back to last season.

Temple will look to win its third straight game for the first time since opening the season with six consecutive victories when the Owls host Duquesne Thursday at the Liacouras Center, tipping-off at 7:00 PM.

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Andrew Dalton

Andrew grew up and still resides right outside Philadelphia in Montgomery County and has been a die-hard Philly sports fan for as long as he can remember. One of his earliest sports memories, unfortunately, was watching Joe Carter hit the World Series winning homerun off Mitch Williams in 1993 with his Dad. All that did however, was make the Phils' 2008 World Championship that much sweeter. You can follow him on Twitter @dutch4885.