Duren the difference as La Salle finally beats Villanova

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER La Salle's players celebrate after snapping a 10-game losing streak against Villanova.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER La Salle's players celebrate after snapping a 10-game losing streak against Villanova.
Posted: November 27, 2012

THROUGH THE first 145 minutes of his junior season, La Salle point guard Tyreek Duren had attempted 41 shots and missed 30 of them. He had taken 13 threes and missed 12. If it ever bothered Duren, nobody noticed. If his expression had changed, everybody would have been shocked.

Duren is a coach's player, never worrying about the last play, only considering the next play.

With his team trailing Villanova by 11 points early in the second half Sunday at Gola Arena and the Explorers having missed 16 of their previous 17 shots, Duren watched teammates Sam Mills and D.J. Peterson hit threes. Then, it was his turn. He knocked down a three. Then, he nailed another. With his team still trailing, he got to the rim for a layup and hit two free throws with 29 seconds left. That still wasn't enough. With not much else to do but shoot a three as the clock drifted under 10 seconds and his team down three, Duren calmly tied the game with a top-of-the-key jumper and sent it into overtime.

Villanova led almost the entire OT. In fact, the Wildcats had led for 28 1/2 minutes when La Salle called its last timeout with 28 seconds left. Played tightly by Neumann-Goretti teammate Tony Chennault, Duren calmly hung out beyond the left side of the lane as his teammates lifted out of the 3-second area. With Chennault, who must have assumed Duren would rush out to get the ball and tried to deny him the chance, Duren went back door and could not have been more wide open if he was the only player in the gym.

"I kept thinking I was going to miss it," Duren said. "That's how wide open I was."

He did not miss.

Duren's layup gave La Salle its first lead in forever. Two Steve Zack (eight points, 14 rebounds) free throws clinched La Salle's 77-74 win, its first over the Wildcats after 10 consecutive defeats.

La Salle's last win over Villanova was so long ago that Jay Wright was coaching just his third game on the Main Line. Wright would lose his next Big 5 game then go on an amazing 35-8 run in the City Series before losing his last three.

"I thought their guards just did a great job of pressuring our guards and not allowing them to get us into offense," Wright said.

Villanova (3-3, 0-1 Big 5) showed an effective high/low game and shot it more than well enough (47.3 percent) to win, but 18 turnovers (nine by point guards Ryan Arcidiacono and Chennault) were too many to overcome. The Wildcats trailed 23-15 and led 42-31, a 19-point turnaround, the kind of run that wins most games. Mouph Yarou (20 points) and JayVaughn Pinkston (19) really had their way inside, especially when La Salle big man Jerrell Wright got in foul trouble and eventually fouled out.

But there was the matter of Ramon Galloway (26 points, five steals, four assists, primary defensive responsibility for Arcidiacono), who kept La Salle (3-1, 1-0) in the game long enough for Duren (23 points, five assists) to win it.

"He was awesome," Wright said of Duren. "That's what great point guards do. He has had good games against us in the past."

In fact, Duren now has 60 points, 17 assists and eight steals in three games against Villanova. And that elusive first win.

La Salle gave away leads each of the last two seasons against Villanova. Wright knew the recent history, but, in the flow of the game, "I thought we had it. I just thought we would gut it out."

It really did look that way. Then La Salle finally got the lead. And it was over.

The La Salle players were well aware of the streak. They talked about it in practice. This time, they played from behind and caught up just in time.

"It was the greatest win ever to me and to my team," Galloway said. "It was a great game. They fought hard. We just wanted it more."

Last year, Galloway, suffering from a concussion, watched from his room on a laptop.

"I had only one more chance to beat them," he said. "And I really wanted to beat them."

It showed.

Wright said Duren was one of the players they did not want to deny. However, in the heat of the moment, Chennault tried to be aggressive.

The winning play was drawn up in the huddle, but La Salle coach John Giannini wasn't looking for any acclaim.

"Well, we set it up, but it doesn't always work," he said. "Listen, coaches get way too much credit and way too much blame. I've run great plays that haven't worked and so has every other coach. That just happened where they bit on it and we were able to get it. We were fortunate."

And he had Duren on his side.

"One of the things I loved about Tyreek in recruiting him was his poise," Giannini said. "He's always the same, no matter how big the moment is. So it doesn't surprise me that he would make big plays or big shots."

At halftime, Duren said N/G coach Carl Arrigale told him his elbow was sticking out on his shots. Assistant coach Harris Adler told him the same thing. Elbow in the right place, the shots started falling. Eventually, that La Salle losing streak to Villanova fell right with them.

When Pinkston, admittedly not understanding the time and score situation, missed a layup at the buzzer, a Gola celebration began. As most of his teammates rushed to the bench, Duren calmly walked there, a slight smile finally forming.

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