Courtesy of GoExplorers.com
PHILADELPHIA – Five Explorers reached double figures in scoring and the La Salle University men’s basketball team (6-6) used an impressive three-point shooting performance to upend Mercer (6-5), 95-85, at Tom Gola Arena at TruMark Financial Center on Sunday.
La Salle connected on a season-best 16 three-pointers, two shy of the school record that has been set three times, most recently on Feb. 9, 2013 against Fordham. Senior B.J. Johnson and redshirt junior Pookie Powell led the way with 25 and 24 points, respectively.
The three-point onslaught began from the start, as seven of the first eight field goals for the Explorers were from long range. A triple from senior Johnnie Shuler with 6:11 remaining in the opening half put La Salle in front by a 30-22 margin.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Shuler and sophomore Saul Phiri were key components of a 12-0 run that opened up a 45-24 lead for the home team with just over a minute left in the period. The Explorers went to the locker room with a 49-29 lead, with an impressive 10 three-pointers to their credit.
La Salle bumped its advantage to a game-high 24 points at 66-42 following a free throw from Miles Brookins at the 14:19 mark before the Bears made a run. Consecutive threes from Ria’n Holland jumpstarted a 17-2 spurt that brought the visitors to within 74-66 at the 7:52mark.
The Explorers kept their poise through the tough stretch, with Powell connecting on a three-pointer and a pair of two-point buckets to bump the margin back to double figures at 81-68. Mercer hit two more three-pointers in the final two minutes that kept the game close, but Phiri hit a three and six straight free throws from La Salle down the stretch were enough to hang on for the win.
Shuler finished with a season-high 13 points while Phiri and sophomore Isiah Deas each added 11. Graduate student Amar Stukes facilitated a number of the three-pointers and closed with 10 assists, matching a career high, as La Salle compiled 19 as a team. Holland had 33 points and Stephon Jelks added 22 for the Bears.
La Salle rounds out non-conference play with a road tilt against Bucknell on Friday, Dec. 22. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.