Tonight in the City 6: La Salle battles St. Bonaventure

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Tonight in the City 6: La Salle battles St. Bonaventure

Two City 6 teams are on the schedule Wednesday night, both from the Atlantic 10. La Salle hits the road to play St. Bonaventure, while St. Joe’s hosts Richmond hoping to cling to one of the final spots for the A-10 tournament.

La Salle (16-6, 6-3 A-10) at St. Bonaventure (11-11, 4-5)
7 p.m., Reilly Center

Previous games
La Salle has won four of five and seven of its last 10 games overall. In their last game, the Explorers dismantled Fordham, 89-53. Four players scored in double figures, led by Sam Mills’ 21 points on a career-high seven threes. Tyreek Duren had a perfect day, going 5 for 5 from the floor, including 4 for 4 from the three and 2 for 2 from the line for a total of 16 points. He also added eight assists. La Salle shot 18 for 33 (54.5 percent) from beyond the arc and tied a school record for three-pointers made. They dished out 22 assists as a team and turned the ball over just seven times.

St. Bonaventure is coming off a win as well, its fourth in six games. The Bonnies entered halftime down six to a Rhode Island squad that was just 1-7 in conference play but managed to escape with a 67-61 victory. Propelled by Eric Mosley’s 21 points and five threes, St. Bonaventure stormed back to outscore the Rams by 12 in the second half. Rhode Island won the rebounding battle, 34-23, but it was not enough to slow down the comeback. Aside from Mosley, the rest of the St. Bonaventure team shot a woeful 1 for 12 from three-point range.

Top players
Ramon Galloway has been La Salle’s workhorse all season long. The senior guard leads the team in scoring (17.1 per game), steals (2.3 per game) and three-point percentage (41.6 percent). He ranks second to Duren in assists with 3.4 per game, and also averages 4.5 rebounds. Galloway has eight 20-plus point games and has hit two or more three-pointers in 18 of 22 contests.

Demitrius Conger has been St. Bonaventure’s best player for most of the season. His 13.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists are all top averages on the team. The senior forward shoots 83.5 percent from the line, 18 percentage points up from his freshman year. Conger has scored in double figures in 18 of 22 games. The Bonnies are just 1-3 in games where he fails to reach the 10-point mark.

Keep an eye on …
Since starting 5-0 at home, St. Bonaventure has just one win in its last five home games. La Salle is 6-4 on the road.

Recent series
The Explorers are just 2-3 in the last five meetings with St. Bonaventure. In last year’s 71-61 victory, Duren led La Salle with 21 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Richmond (14-10, 4-5 A-10) at Saint Joseph’s (13-9, 4-5)
7 p.m., Hagan Arena

Previous games
After winning three in a row, St. Joe’s has dropped its last two games by a combined 24 points. In its last game, an 80-62 loss to Massachusetts, Langston Galloway led St. Joe’s with 14 points and seven assists but shot just 2-for-9 from three. The Hawks had four scorers in double figures but turned the ball over 14 times and allowed UMass to shoot 51.8 percent from the field.

Richmond has lost three of four, most recently a 56-46 defeat at home to St. Louis. Not only was Cedrick Lindsay the lone Spider in double figures with 20 points, he was the only one who made more than one field goal. Richmond shot a dismal 10 for 43 (23.3 percent), 3 for 15 from the three (20 percent) and had just five assists as a team. The team that ranks 338th of 345 Division I teams in rebounding (29.0 per game) was out-rebounded, 42-27, by the Billikens.

Top players
Carl Jones has been the Hawks' top scorer this season. The senior guard averages 14.9 points, 2.9 boards and 2.8 assists while shooting a team-best 38.2 percent from three-point range. He has reached double digits in the scoring column in 16 of his 20 games. The Hawks are 0-4 in the games where Jones scores less than 10 points.

Darien Brothers and Derrick Williams have co-starred for Richmond this season. Brothers’ 15.7 points per game leads the Spiders. The senior guard also shoots 45.3 percent from three and an incredible 88.8 percent from the line. Williams, a junior forward, averages 13.1 points and a team-best 6.5 rebounds while shooting 55.4 percent from the floor.

Keep an eye on …
The A-10 standings. Both teams come into the game in a three-way tie for 10th in the conference. With only 12 teams qualifying for postseason play, the winner will give itself a tiny bit of breathing room, while the loser will have to claw its way back into the mix.

Recent series
St. Joe’s is just 1-4 in the past five meetings with Richmond after splitting the season series last year. In the two games last season, Galloway averaged 14 points and Jones averaged 13.

Jalen Brunson 'plays like a Philly guard' in helping No. 1 Villanova hold off La Salle

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Jalen Brunson 'plays like a Philly guard' in helping No. 1 Villanova hold off La Salle

BOX SCORE

Normally before his team’s first game at the Palestra in a certain year, Jay Wright takes his players on a tour of the storied building.

The goal: To remind them of the history, the importance and the tradition. And also what happens here.

After Tuesday’s game against La Salle, Wright regretted not playing tour guide last week when the Wildcats played Penn.

Turns out he picked the right time to remind sophomore Jalen Brunson what the Palestra is all about and how things never typically go as planned once the ball is in the air.

Brunson, whose dad endured plenty of Big 5 battles while playing at Temple, poured in a career-high 26 points to help No. 1 Villanova fend off a feisty La Salle team, 89-79 (see Instant Replay).

With Kris Jenkins’ shot not falling, and with the Explorers making everything difficult for the Wildcats, Wright, on multiple occasions, had to go to his “ace in the hole.”

“You know, at any point when you need to get a bucket, he can go get one for you,” Wright said. “That’s kind of what we did tonight.”

Brunson scored 14 of his 26 in the second half. He shot 10 for 17 from the floor on the night, including 2 of 3 from deep, and made all four of his attempts from the free throw line.

“Coach always says [to] be aggressive,” Brunson said. “Be ready to catch and shoot, ready to make plays. I was just feeling it tonight. It’s a credit to my teammates for finding me.”

He found them, too.

With La Salle hanging close all game, Villanova used a crucial 9-0 run to finally get some separation. In that stretch, Brunson hit Donte DiVincenzo with a backdoor, alley-oop pass that gave Villanova a 48-42 lead.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Eric Paschall and Jenkins put Villanova ahead by 11, 53-42, with 12:03 to go.

The run came during a five-minute, 23-second La Salle FG drought.

But La Salle, after a 57.1 percent shooting performance had the Explorers down just four at the half, roared back late behind a career-high 27 points from Pookie Powell.

Powell’s layup with 1:55 left got La Salle within five, 75-70. But Brunson responded with a tough finish through traffic.

A three-pointer from La Salle’s Jordan Price made it 77-73 with 1:19 left.

But Villanova was able to connect on two lengthy inbounds passes, one to Mikal Bridges, who scored 16 points on the night, and one to Josh Hart (21 points), to lead to easy points down the other end. And Brunson hit free throws down the stretch to preserve the win.

“A couple breakdowns, a couple things didn’t bounce our way, some missed free throws, and of course [Villanova’s] effort is extraordinary,” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “We worked hard but they got a few more loose balls, a few more offensive rebounds and they just deserve credit for being relentless, the way they are all the time.”

The thought, however unlikely it seemed before tip-off, probably lingered in the minds of most inside the Palestra longer than they expected it to.

For long stretches of the game, La Salle had Villanova out of sorts. Wright credited that to La Salle’s talent. Some of it could also just be chalked up to another city series game at the Palestra — of which Villanova has now rattled off 17 consecutive wins.

“We’re not surprised at all,” Wright said. “I think we’re a little surprised we couldn’t guard them better. But we were not surprised at their effort, their talent. … They are as talented one-on-one offensively as we are. We have just played together longer.

“Some nights the other team has a little bit better plan. I think John had a little bit better plan for us than I did for them. Sometimes things just don’t go your way and you have to find a way to grind it out.

“Our veterans here, and I count Jalen as one because he’s an old soul, did a great job down the stretch.”

An old soul who perhaps still benefited from Wright’s tour.

“He plays like a Philly guard,” Wright said. “His dad, even though his dad’s from upstate New York, his dad’s a Philly guy. He knew everything. He’d seen it before.

“That’s valuable for us. It was valuable for us last year in our run, having a freshman that really didn’t think the game like a freshman or play like a freshman.”

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 89, La Salle 79

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 89, La Salle 79

BOX SCORE

The thought, however unlikely it seemed before tip-off, probably lingered in the minds of most in the Palestra Tuesday night.

Newly-crowned No. 1 Villanova looked beatable in a “road” game against a cross-city opponent, La Salle.

A streak of 16 consecutive city series wins was on the line. And surely that No. 1 ranking would disappear next week with a loss.

But like many of the 16 previous games, Villanova finally wore down its opponent. At least enough to hold on for a win.

Behind a career-high 26 points from Jalen Brunson, 21 from Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges’ 16, Villanova earned an 89-79 win over an Explorers team that quite simply refused to go away.

La Salle, which trailed just 40-36 at halftime, got a career-high 27 from Pookie Powell, who made three three-pointers to keep the Explorers close.

Powell’s layup with 1:55 left got La Salle within five, 75-70. But Brunson responded with a tough finish through traffic.

A three-pointer from La Salle’s Jordan Price made it 77-73 with 1:19 left.

But Villanova was able to connect on two lengthy inbounds passes, one to Bridges and one to Hart, to lead to easy points down the other end to help preserve a win.

Turning point
In a game that needed one to determine a winner, Villanova used a 9-0 run (which started with the Wildcats up, 44-42) in less than 2½ minutes early in the second half to finally create some separation. Separation the Wildcats would need down the stretch.

In the middle of the run, Brunson hit Donte DiVincenzo with a backdoor, alley-oop pass that gave Villanova a 48-42 lead.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Eric Paschall and Kris Jenkins put Villanova ahead by 11, 53-42, with 12:03 to go and the Wildcats never looked back. Their lead never shrunk below four the rest of the night.

The run came during a five-minute, 23-second La Salle FG drought.

Inside the box score
• La Salle shot 57.1 percent (16 for 28) from the floor in the first half to keep the game close in what was one of Villanova’s worst defensive halfs of the young season.

• Villanova entered Tuesday’s game with 117 assists on 222 makes (53 percent) this year. In Tuesday’s first half, Villanova got just five assists on 16 makes from the floor. The Wildcats got their offensive rhythm going in the second half, recording 10 assists on 18 made baskets.

• Price (18.5 ppg entering Tuesday) was held to single digits (nine points) for just the fourth time over the last two seasons.

• Paschall tied a season high with seven rebounds. 

• Villanova won the turnover battle, 11-6, and shot 13 for 16 from the free throw line.

History
In the 66th meeting between the Philly schools, Villanova improved its record to 39-27 all-time against La Salle. 

Jay Wright now owns a 14-2 record against the Explorers.

In Palestra history: Villanova became the first No. 1 team to play at the Palestra since North Carolina defeated Penn, 106-71, Dec. 4, 2007.

Up next
Villanova has off until Saturday, when the Wildcats travel to Newark, New Jersey, to take on No. 23 Notre Dame at noon.

The Explorers play Saturday (2 p.m.) in Miami against Georgetown at the Hoophall Miami Invitational.