La Salle, Temple face off with plenty at stake

Posted: February 22, 2013

With a victory Thursday night, La Salle would put aside memories of its agonizing defeats by Temple.

The Explorers also would pull a half-game behind Atlantic Ten front-runner St. Louis, and they would clinch their first outright Big Five championship since the 1989-90 season.

But if the Temple Owls prevail at the Liacouras Center, they will share the City Series championship with La Salle. They also would gain a much-needed win to improve their shaky NCAA tournament resumé.

This is a gigantic game for both teams.

"We don't want to share," said La Salle guard Tyreek Duren, whose squad already clinched a share of the Big Five title. "That's like coming in second place, if you ask me. So we've just got business to take care of [Thursday]. After that, we will be good. Then we can celebrate."

The Explorers have lost seven consecutive games to the Owls. Temple, which has won a record 26 Big Five titles, must eliminate its inconsistent play to earn another.

La Salle (18-6, 8-3 A-10, 3-0 Big Five) has won four straight games and six of its last seven. In the last four games, the Explorers have made 48 three-pointers. La Salle is 9-1 when making at least nine three-pointers in a game.

Much of the team's success has to do with its guards: Duren, Ramon Galloway, and Sam Mills.

Duren, a junior point guard, tied his career high with 29 points Saturday in a 76-64 victory over St. Joseph's at the Palestra. The former Neumann-Goretti star averages 14.5 points and 3.4 assists; he is shooting 41.1 percent on three-pointers.

Galloway leads the team in scoring (17.3 points per game) and assists (3.8). He was named A-10 player of the week on Monday and shared Big Five honors with Temple's Khalif Wyatt.

Mills, a junior, averages 7.8 points and 2.1 assists.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy is impressed with La Salle, his alma mater.

"They all know their roles," he said. "Again, knowing each other's role is critical. I think they have all bought in, defensively. They like to do a good job collectively defensively. And I think that really helps them."

The Owls (17-8, 6-5 A-10, 2-1 Big Five) will need balanced scoring against that defense. They won't be able to depend solely on Wyatt.

The senior guard, who is sure to draw La Salle's attention, has averaged 25.2 points over the last 11 games. He is averaging an A-10-best 19.8 points this season.

Before Saturday's 83-82 win at Massachusetts, Wyatt had been the Owls' only reliable weapon. But Temple finished that game with five double-digit scorers in Wyatt (24 points), Anthony Lee (14), Scootie Randall (11), Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (10), and Jake O'Brien (10).

"We have to make shots, and we have to defend," Wyatt said. "They've got some good guards. So we've got to focus on guarding their guards.

"I just think the tougher team is going to win - the team that is going to get the loose balls, the team that makes shots down the stretch."


La Salle at Temple

Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Liacouras Center

TV/radio: CBS-SN; WPHT-AM (1210)

Records: La Salle, 18-6, 8-3 Atlantic Ten, 3-0 Big 5; Temple, 17-8, 6-5, 2-1.

Coaches: La Salle, John Gianinni (ninth season, 137-134): Temple, Fran Dunphy (seventh season, 151-73).

Series: Temple leads, 72-40. The Owls won the last seven meetings with the Explorers.

- Keith Pompey


Contact Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @pompeysgridlock.

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