Big 5 rolls out a classic game at Palestra

Posted: January 21, 2014

AS EVERYONE in Philadelphia knows, any Big 5 game in the Palestra is special. The atmosphere in the Cathedral of Basketball is always electric when teams from the city meet. Saturday was no different, and was even more exciting when ESPN's "College GameDay" rolled into town.

"It was so much louder," Temple's Anthony Lee said. "This was the first time I have heard it being this super loud. My ears stopped up a little bit."

The student sections brought their respective "A" games. It was hard to hear oneself think when the game was on the line in the waning minutes. "LSU" or "Let's go Temple" chants electrified the old venue for much of the game. The remaining crowd was just as excited, jolting out of their seats on numerous occasions to let their teams' players hear their approval.

The atmosphere was just part of what made Saturday a great day for the Big 5. Not only did the Palestra receive national attention, but the fans and national audience were treated to a high intensity, back-and-forth thriller that was not decided until the last 20 seconds or so. La Salle (11-6, 2-1 Big 5), led by Tyreek Duren's 20 points, seven assists, came out on top 74-68 for their first win over Temple (5-11, 2-1) since 2009.

Tyrone Garland (17 points), Jerrell Wright (15) and Steve Zack, (10 points, 15 rebounds) also led La Salle.

The Owls got 21 points from Quenton DeCosey and 19 points and 15 rebounds from Lee.

Students from both schools brought all the energy and intensity they had, but knew that the matchup was not just about the game. The tradition of the Palestra and Big 5 lives on through the signs, chants and rollouts that each student section unveils throughout the game.

A Big 5 tradition that was axed from this game is the throwing of streamers after the first made field goal. It was originally in the plans, and was even on the rundown of events that were posted in the media room. A last-minute decision because of rules violations kept that tradition from going on, but the rollouts were out in full force.

Before the game even started, "College GameDay" brought out a ton of signs and cut outs from the fans. Temple students brought big posters of the cast of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," as well as many of the Temple players. There was one large sign right in the middle of the background of the ESPN set that said "LOL Salle."

The signs from the La Salle students were what you would expect for an ESPN game. One sign spelled ESPN vertically, with each letter starting the sentence "Explorers Still Philadelphia's Number 1." Other than that, there were shots fired at the Owls and their alums. There was a "at least we put our football team down" sign, as well as one that read "Bill Cosby isn't funny." A large poster of Joe Paterno even made an appearance, relevant or not.

When the game started, so did the rollouts. Like always, there were some good, and some not so good from the students. The first, and possibly the best of La Salle's rollouts read, "TU Made . . . 150 student-athletes pack their bags," relating to Temple's decision to cut sports teams.

Temple had a few strong rollouts of its own. One of their best was "Last time you beat us, Miley Cyrus had the best of both worlds." Another one of their good ones was "Don't worry Good Burger, Tyrone will be free in March," poking fun at Garland's resemblance to actor Kel Mitchell in the movie "Good Burger."

When it was all said and done, with the rollouts ripped, the clock at 0:00 and La Salle and its fans celebrating, one thing was clear: The Big 5 had a great showing in front of a national audience.

"I just don't know why you wouldn't want to keep that tradition going," La Salle's Dr. John Giannini said about playing at the Palestra. "I don't know why we wouldn't want to play here. It's just an awesome experience. There's nothing else like it."

Perhaps Saturday's successful stage set up more old-school Big 5 games to come. Philadelphians would welcome it with open arms.