La Salle throttles Penn at Palestra

Posted: January 06, 2014

Two weeks between games can leave a team rusty, or the time can be well-spent trying to strengthen problem areas.

Judging from their performance in a Big Five game Saturday at the Palestra, the unusually long break benefited the La Salle Explorers as they routed Penn, 76-57.

Returning to action for the first time since a Dec. 22 loss at Miami, La Salle (7-6) got 21 points from Jerrell Wright, who equaled his career high, and used its superior personnel to send the Quakers (2-10) to their seventh consecutive loss.

Wright made scoring look easy, connecting on 8 of 9 shots in 21 minutes as La Salle coach John Giannini gave significant time to his bench. Wright lit the fuse for the rout by opening the second half with four straight baskets to begin a 22-3 run that left the Quakers in the dust.

"Jerrell Wright got whatever he wanted in the paint, regardless of who we put on him," Penn coach Jerome Allen said of the 6-foot-8 junior.

Afterward, Wright said he and his teammates couldn't wait to get back into competition.

"We were very anxious to play again," said Wright, who also had six rebounds. "My teammates were getting me the ball in the right spots."

The Explorers, who got 14 points each from Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland; outscored the Quakers in the paint, 32-20; and outrebounded them by 45-29. They led by as many as 35 points, and at one juncture in the game Wright had outscored the Quakers, 21-20.

Giannini said his team focused some practice time on crisper passing.

"Passing the ball to people when they're open, not missing them when they're open," he said. "Not holding the ball too long. Getting our guards to be better rebounders. Our big guys have had to do too much [rebounding]. Also, I think we played hard, but I really think we could have done a better job of that."

With 6-11 Darien Nelson-Henry unavailable because of a concussion, Penn had no answer for Wright. Allen said he hoped Nelson-Henry could return for Saturday's Ivy League opener against Princeton.

"He'll go through some tests, and then we'll see how he does after that," he said. "I can't say he'll be ready for next Saturday. We hope we can get him back."

Despite the seven straight defeats, Allen saw reasons for hope as the Ivy League season approaches.

"The first thing we have to do is forget about today," he said. "We've got to get better, and that all falls on me. We've got to do whatever we can over the next seven days to get ready to play for a league championship. I'm confident these guys are going to be all right."