The men’s basketball team won’t know its opponent for Thursday’s Atlantic Ten Conference second-round game until Wednesday night, but the Owls do know their foe will own a high-scoring offense.
Seventh-seeded La Salle and No. 10 Duquesne square off in the A-10 Tournament first round today in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall at 6:30 p.m. The winner draws the No. 2-seeded Owls, who earned a first-round bye, on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Both the Explorers (14-16, 8-8 A-10) and the Dukes (17-12, 7-9) can score with the best of them. The Dukes finished second in the A-10 in scoring, averaging 82.4 points per game, while the Explorers averaged 75.6.
They go about getting those points in different manners.
The Dukes spread the ball around on offense – they topped the A-10 with 527 assists. Shawn James (12.8 ppg), Kojo Mensah (12.5) and Kieron Achara (11.4) lead a group of seven players that each average more than 8.0 ppg. Nine players average at least 19 minutes of playing time.
The Dukes find most of their success in the paint, where James and Achara, both 6-foot-10, create mismatches. The Dukes aren’t adverse to taking their attack beyond the arc, but they’re not as successful there. They made 208 treys – eighth best in the A-10 – but shot a league-worst 31.4 percent from three-point range.
For the Explorers, the perimeter game is their biggest strength. They’re led by Darnell Harris, who averaged 16.4 points per game and has made the most treys in A-10 history. Rodney Green is the Explorers’ second option, averaging 13.1 ppg. The Explorers tied with Charlotte for the second-most three-pointers made, draining 240 treys.
The Explorers are also good at rebounding, having finished third in the A-10 in rebounding margin, out-rebounding opponents by an average of 3.8 boards per game. Jerrell Williams tops La Salle with 6.6 rebounds per game. Yves Mekongo Mbala (5.9 rpg) and Paul Johnson (5.2) are also factors.
But La Salle has struggled to maintain sound possession of the basketball, committing 16.2 turnovers per game, worst in the A-10. Duquesne was nearly as bad, averaging 16.1 turnovers, but the Dukes off-set that by creating a league-best 18.4 turnovers. They also topped the conference with 270 steals.
The Dukes surrender 73.8 ppg, but that number is deceiving, based on their up-tempo style of play. They limited opponents to a 42.2 shooting percentage, which tied for third-best in the conference. James creates havoc in the paint, blocking a league-best 3.96 blocks a game.
La Salle, on the other hand, gives up 75.9 ppg – and that number is not deceiving. The Explorers allowed opponents to shoot 46.3 percent, the worst mark in the A-10. Even during their five-game winning streak, coach John Giannini complained about the Explorers lack of defense.
With both teams bringing high-scoring offenses into Wednesday’s match up, it’s highly likely defense could be the factor between them.
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.
Also read: “Sizing up the field”
(Photo courtesy of the La Salle Collegian.)