He’s 6 feet, 9 inches tall, soft-spoken and respectful.
But he can throw down a menacing jam at a moment’s notice.
Lavoy Allen has not only been heralded as the best player on the men’s basketball team, but he’s the catalyst to any potential late-season surge.
When the Owls stray away from their ever-improving big man, bad things seem to happen. A trigger-happy Cherry and White squad was surpassed by Massachusetts Jan. 17 in part because of 33 long-range attempts. The low post balance has been scarce at times but efficient when executed successfully.
The Owls are 6-1 when Allen attempts at least 10 shots. The Morrisville, Pa., native is shooting 55.6 percent from the field this season, the best of any shooter on the team who has taken more than 20 shots.
Thursday against Saint Louis, there was no hesitation to feed Allen in the paint. There was no stopping him either. Allen connected on his first eight shots and had a team-high 16 points on 10 attempts. That alone was enough to match the Billikens’ first-half point total.
“I think he got more space to work [against Saint Louis] because he’s in there with Craig Williams, who can make jumpers on the perimeter,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “And you’ve got to respect that.”
Dunphy isn’t shy about his team’s third-leading scorer and recommends Allen spread his shooting touch around the gym.
“He’s a very good jumper shooter, too,” he said.” I’d like to see him start to do that, too, if they do take the inside game away from him.”
In the Owls’ second straight blowout victory this past Saturday, an 80-53 drubbing of Charlotte, Allen asserted himself once more. He posted his sixth career double-double, 16 points and 10 rebounds, supplemented with a career-high four blocks.
While 11 of those 16 points came in the second half, Allen has evolved into the go-to guy early in the game.
“We always want to start with going inside first,” Dunphy said. “That’s always our mentality, but that’s not always going to happen if teams are going to take that away from you.”
It’s not only the scoring output of Allen that helps the Owls, but it’s the threat of his interior game that can mislead opposing defenses. When he’s not muscling back a fellow forward, he can easily kick the ball back out to find an open guard willing to dial up a 3-pointer.
“Everyone knows about Dionte Christmas, and they know we got a lot of shooters,” Allen said. “So in order to make a run late in the season, we got to be a more inside-outside team.”
Allen will be tested in the coming months with a couple of able-bodied Atlantic Ten Conference bruisers, as he will most likely draw matchups against Xavier junior forward Derrick Brown and Saint Joseph’s senior forward Ahmad Nivins.
Brown is 227 pounds and averages 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Nivins not only leads the conference in rebounding with 11.6 per game but has passed Owls’ senior guard Christmas in scoring with 20.4 per contest.
These crucial individual showdowns may factor into how deep the Owls go in the A-10 Tournament, as both Xavier and Saint Joseph’s are currently undefeated in conference play. But as Allen continues to mature both offensively and defensively, the Owls have to like their odds.
For the Owls to repeat as A-10 champions for the first time since 2000-2001, Allen will need to get more opportunities to score. Aggressive play around the rim is a must – even if that means trading in his good-guy image 40 minutes at a time.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.