By JACK SCHEUER
Saturday at the packed Palestra, it’s LaSalle, riding a wave, and looking for its first Big 5 title since 1990. Its opponent is Saint Joseph’s, struggling, but hoping to turn things around against a longtime city rival.
Much time has passed since the Explorers have had this many fans at the Palestra, and the Hawks have their usual amount of staunch followers. People are sitting in the aisles, standing at the top, and it is very loud. For the first 10 minutes of the game, it seems like the players have been caught up in all the excitement and play is rather ragged.
Well, not all of the players are extra hyped up. Tyreek Duren, La Salle’s smallest, but most valuable member, is his usual calm, under-control self, even while everybody else seems to be flying up and down the court. Finally, things settle down, and the 6-foot (maybe) point guard starts to show his offensive side. He ends up with 29 points on just 12 shots, including five of six from long range. He also records five rebounds, three assists and zero turnovers in 38 minutes of fast- paced action. LaSalle comes up with a 12-point win.
It’s been a while, but right now the Explorers are the best team in the city, and have high hopes of getting into the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 1991-92 season. Time will tell how much more success this team will have, but there’s good news at 20th and Olney no matter what happens:
The best point guard in the city is back again next season.
-Palestra history: Looking through some old Big 5 material I noticed something that tells you the allure of the Palestra in the early days. Each year the outstanding visiting team was announced, and the 1957-58 group was pretty impressive. Three of its members were Oscar Robertson from Cincinnati; West Virginia’s Jerry West, and a rather tall fellow from Kansas named Chamberlain. Not bad.
-Trivia Time: Here’s an NBA question: Who has the NBA record for playing in the most consecutive games without fouling out? Answer at the end of the column.
-Bouncing around: Former Temple star Dionte Christmas is playing in Russia after signing an impressive contract. … Once again we’ll bring up the fact that Florida’s Billy Donovan continues to be one of the top coaches in the country but gets very little recognition. … On the other hand, sometimes you’ll see a coach that, even though you don’t know him personally, is very tough to root for. Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin comes to mind. … One of the reasons for Villanova’s surprising success is the improved play of freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacano, who has really cut down on his turnovers. … Not many better little men around than Kendall Anthony from Richmond. Generously listed at 5-foot-8, 140 pounds, he’s second on the team in scoring.
-Answer to Trivia Time: Mark Jackson played in 1,212 games without fouling out. Wilt Chamberlain never fouled out but played in 1,045 contests.
-Jack Scheuer is a Big 5 Hall of Fame college basketball writer. His “Off the Boards” column appears on Tuesdays. His ‘Off The Boards’ columns are archived HERE.
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