Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

College Notebook: Explorers on solid footing

Posted by Eric Fisher On November 27

La Salle entered Sunday’s game against Temple with a three-game losing streak. By contrast, the Owls were 3-0, having won all three of their games at the Charleston Classic.

Naturally, the Explorers won the game, 87-83.

What else would you expect from the Big Five?

But maybe this wasn’t the upset it appeared to be. Two of the Explorers’ blemishes during their three-game losing streak came against Miami and Northwestern, who were ranked 11th and 18th, respectively, when they defeated La Salle.

The Explorers are led by forward B.J. Johnson and guard Pookie Powell. Johnson is averaging 22.1 points and 9.7 rebounds. Powell is averaging 16.4 points and 3.6 assists.

Powell poured in 29 points against Temple. Johnson contributed 25 points.

La Salle (4-3) has four players averaging between 5.9 and 6.6 points per game. One of those players will probably have to develop into a reliable third scoring option in order for the Explorers to experience postseason success.

The Explorers take their show on the road, actually overseas, later this week at the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic. They will face Towson on Friday (2 p.m.), and then will play either Manhattan or Holy Cross on Saturday.


BRIDGES PART OF FOUNDATION: Villanova’s opponents had better keep an eye on Mikal Bridges. Known primarily for his defense, Bridges has been a major contributor on offense during the early portion of this season. He led the unbeaten Wildcats (6-0) with 18 points as they defeated Northern Iowa, 64-50, to win the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The 18 points in the tournament final were right in line with what Bridges has been doing this season. His 18.5 points per game are just 0.2 behind team leader Jalen Brunson. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Bridges’ outside shot. He’s making 50 percent of his 3-point attempts.


HIGH FIVE: The Battle 4 Atlantis title marks the fifth straight year in which Villanova has won a November tournament.


WORKING OVERTIME: The Penn Quakers were working overtime, both literally and figuratively, last week. Penn played four games in six days, culminating in a four-overtime 101-96 triumph over Monmouth on Saturday night. The Quakers scored the final 10 points during their victory over Monmouth. Ryan Betley led the Quakers with 26 points. He received plenty of help from Antonio Woods (23 points) and Eddie Scott (21 points, 13 rebounds).

This was Penn’s first four-overtime game since 1920. The Quakers played a double-overtime game earlier this season against La Salle, dropping a 75-71 decision.

The loss to La Salle dropped the Quakers to 0-2, but they’ve won five out of six games since that defeat. One element that has helped the Quakers is their scoring depth. In addition to Betley, Woods and Scott, AJ Brodeur, Darnell Foreman, Caleb Wood and Max Rothschild are all capable of leading Penn in scoring. Sharpshooter Jackson Donahue could be added to that list if he can get his shot on track.


ROAD WARRIORS: Temple doesn’t play its first home game until Dec. 6, which will be its seventh game this season. The Owls started the season at the Charleston Classic, lost at La Salle on Sunday, will battle South Carolina at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (9 p.m.) and then will visit George Washington on Sunday (2:30 .m.).

Before anyone gets too excited about the Owls coming home in December, their first three home games are against Wisconsin, Saint Joseph’s and Villanova.


ROAD WARRIORS II: Only of the first six games for Saint Joseph’s was at home, a 71-58 victory over Princeton. But the Hawks are 3-3 as they enter a stretch of four games in Philadelphia. The Hawks will host Bucknell on Wednesday, followed by Saturday’s Holy War (5:30 p.m.) with Villanova.


UPS AND DOWNS: Saint Joseph’s, which was plagued by injuries lost season, appears snake-bitten again this season. With Charlie Brown still sidelined by a fractured wrist, the Hawks lost guard Lamarr Kimble for the rest of the season due to an injury to his left foot, the same foot he broke last February. Kimble played just one game this season.

On the positive side for the Hawks, freshman Taylor Funk is making a contribution right away. He is third on the team in scoring (15.8 points) and scored all 15 of his points in the second half Sunday to help the Hawks rally from a 12-point second-half deficit for a 74-69 victory over Sacramento State, salvaging a win at the Wooden Legacy tournament after narrow losses to Washington State and Harvard.


CHANGE IN LOCATION: The excitement of participating in the Paradise Jam had to be diminished slightly for Drexel because the location was switched from the United States Virgin Islands to Lynchburg, Va., due to damage from this summer’s hurricanes. The Dragons boosted their spirits with an opening-round 84-80 win over Houston, but they lost subsequent games to Mercer and Drake, with the Drake game lasting two overtimes.


STREAK FOR AGES ENDS: La Salle was 0 for 15 from 3-point range during last Wednesday’s 57-46 loss to Miami. That was the first time the Explorers didn’t make a 3-point shot since March 6, 1989, a streak of 843 games.


TOP-LEVEL RIVALRY: Villanova and Kansas announced a two-game series over the next two seasons. Villanova will visit Allen Field House on Dec. 15, 2018, and then the Jayhawks will visit Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 21, 2019.


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