Depleted La Salle to face Temple

Posted: February 28, 2010

Temple coach Fran Dunphy was asked recently whether any of his teams had experienced as many injuries to key players as John Giannini and his La Salle squad had this season.

Of the four senior Explorers featured on the cover of the team's media guide, three are sidelined. La Salle is trying to get by without 6-foot-6 guards Ruben Guillandeaux and Kimmani Barrett, who have foot injuries, and 6-7 forward Yves Mekongo, who has an injured finger.

They have combined for 3,000 career points.

"I never had that many 1,000-point scorers on my team," Dunphy said. "You feel bad for everybody. It's just not fair."

Today, Dunphy will no doubt put his sentiments aside. His Owls visit La Salle for an Atlantic Ten contest critical to both squads.

Temple, ranked 20th in the nation, is in a three-way tie for first place in the conference. With two regular-season games remaining after meeting the Explorers, the Owls are also out to secure a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

They are 23-5 overall and 11-2 in the conference.

La Salle, on the other hand, is fighting to land a berth in the tournament. Only the top 12 teams win a spot, and along with St. Joseph's and a couple of other hopefuls, the Explorers (11-16, 3-10) are in danger of missing out.

Temple defeated visiting La Salle, 64-52, on Jan. 30. The loss was the first of seven straight for the Explorers.

"The challenge for us is to play at a high level in the A-10, and we're focused on getting better," said Giannini, whose team will finish the regular season at home against Massachusetts and at St. Joseph's.

"We're trying to make the most of what we have," he said. "If the offshoot of that is making the tournament, that will be fine."

At least La Salle still has guard Rodney Green healthy. As the 6-5 senior goes, so go the Explorers, whose ranks include seven scholarship players and four freshmen.

One of the rookies, 6-10 center Aaric Murray, is second to Green with 12.5 points a game. Green is averaging 18.2.

Steve Weingarten, a 6-8 junior forward, has made the most of his playing time since being pressed into service because of the injuries.

Jerrell Williams, a 6-8 junior forward averaging a team high of 7.3 rebounds, has been a mainstay.

"We have to play with great effort, and our margin of error is very small," Giannini said.

"The most important thing for us is shot selection," he said. "If we can get a good shot every time downcourt, that would solve a problem. But that's difficult to do against Temple."

Temple, coming off a dogfight against Dayton that resulted in a 49-41 victory, has won four in a row. Dunphy is expecting the Explorers to play hard despite their injuries.

"The way they fight, they will come after us," Dunphy said.

Notes. Giannini said Barrett, Mekongo or both might return before the season is over. . . . Temple-La Salle also counts in the Big Five standings. . . . Richmond will visit Xavier today for a game between the teams that are tied with Temple atop the conference standings.


Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.

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