After slow start, Duren heating up for La Salle

After slow start, Duren heating up for La Salle
March 27, 2013, 7:45 pm
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LOS ANGELES – The first game didn’t go well for him. Neither did the second. It was unusual.

Tyreek Duren was La Salle’s most consistent player for much of the year. He was also arguably the Explorers’ best all-around player – a point guard who can pass, score and defend. The junior started every game for La Salle during the regular season, and he scored in double figures in all but three.

That’s what made the first two games of the NCAA tournament so surprising. Duren was a little off. Or more than a little if you ask him. Something wasn’t right. He shot 1 for 6 in a play-in/first-round win versus 13-seed Boise State, then went 1 for 7 in a victory against fourth-seeded Kansas State. He had just seven combined points and seven assists in those first two games.

“I know I didn’t play well the first two games,” Duren said. “I just know there are some things I wasn’t doing. I wasn’t really being aggressive, and wasn’t really looking to push the ball in transition. I tried to do that in the third game, and I had good results.”

That he did. Duren was excellent against Ole Miss, hitting six of his 11 shots from the floor, going 6-for-7 from the line, scoring 19 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out two assists. It was the version of Duren the Explorers have relied on all season.

Consider Duren’s average stat line in victories versus defeats. In wins, he averages 15.7 points and 3.6 assists while shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 45.1 percent from three-point range. In losses, his numbers dip to 11.2 points and 2.1 assists on 38.4 percent shooting from the field and 21.9 percent shooting from distance.

“He is key for us,” La Salle head coach John Giannini said. “He and Ramon [Galloway] are key for us. We have a number of very good players and that’s why we’ve been able to advance. When Tyreek is playing well, our chances of winning skyrocket, frankly. He gets people involved. He scores. He’s a complete point guard. He’s a difference maker. So, yeah, his outstanding play against Mississippi was critical.”

After the Boise State game, Giannini said he wasn’t worried about Duren. He said the same thing after Kansas State. If anything, it was encouraging that the Explorers still won despite the fact that Duren didn’t have his best outings. The theory was that Duren would get going eventually, and that would only make La Salle more dangerous.

That’s what happened against Ole Miss. Duren was clearly one of the quickest players on the floor, and he presented a major matchup problem for the Rebels. That wasn’t surprising. He’s been causing issues for opponents for the last three years. Duren is 27th on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,251 career points. He’s also 10th all-time in steals (176), 11th in assists (388), and he was named to the Atlantic 10 second team this year.

On Wednesday, Duren was all smiles. Following practice at the Staples Center, he and his teammates hung around the court and had an impromptu dunk contest. That’s not really Duren’s thing. He’s listed at 6-foot, but that might be a touch generous. Even so, he joined in and threw a couple down, much to the delight of his teammates, as well as former NBA player turned broadcaster Reggie Miller who cheered Duren on and told him “a dunk is a dunk.”

“I’m just having a good time,” Duren said. “I’m glad I had a better game against Ole Miss. I’m glad we’re out here in L.A. in the Sweet 16. As long as we win, I’m good. If I play well, that’s fine, but the only thing I care about is us winning.”