Courtesy of GoExplorers.com
PHILADELPHIA – Redshirt junior guard Pookie Powell put together an impressive offensive display, scoring a game-high 28 points to lead the La Salle University men’s basketball team (7-7, 1-0 A-10) to a convincing 83-60 win over Saint Louis (7-7, 0-1 A-10) in the Atlantic 10 season opener for both schools on Saturday.
Graduate student Amar Stukes also had a posted a season-best 20 points for the Explorers, who played without leading scorer B.J. Johnson for the second consecutive game due to an ankle injury.
“I have an appreciation for how good Saint Louis is and how good they’re going to be this year,” head coach Dr. John Giannini said. “They’re a very talented team. Saint Louis beat Virginia Tech badly at Madison Square Garden. Murray State is one of the best mid-major teams in the country and they were up big against them. To beat a team like that without B.J. is phenomenal.”
After Saint Louis scored the first bucket of the game, La Salle used a 12-2 run over a span of nearly five minutes to seize control. Powell had two driving layups and redshirt senior Tony Washington converted a pair of buckets in the paint in the spurt.
Two free throws from freshman Miles Brookins, who posted a career-high 10 points in the game, ended a run of seven straight La Salle points to push the advantage to 23-10 at the 6:40 mark of the opening half.
From there, the Explorers closed the period on a 21-9 run led by Powell, who had seven points over the final 1:38 to give the home team a resounding 44-19 lead heading into intermission.
As impressive as the offense was over the first 20 minutes, the defense was just as good, limiting the Billikens to just 27.3 percent shooting. The Explorers also managed a 24-17 rebounding edge and held a 10-4 advantage in points off turnovers.
Saint Louis came out swinging to start the second half, as Jalen Johnson hit on his first two attempts from the floor. But the dynamic Powell answered with two straight three-pointers and a transition lay-in that pushed the margin to 56-26 with 15:16 on the clock.
A three-pointer from Stukes on the next possession gave the Explorers their largest lead of the game at 59-26 with 14:35 to go. La Salle was able to cruise from there to earn its most lopsided league win since an 89-53 victory over Fordham on Feb. 9, 2013.
“I think we defended them really well,” Giannini continued. “We played with great energy. We really maintained our intensity throughout the game. They came out hard at the start of the second half. They turned us over and you could tell they were playing angry, and our guys did a great job. I’m thrilled.”
Powell closed 12-of-19 from the field and added seven rebounds, while Washington was the fourth La Salle player in double figures with 10 points. Jordan Goodwin led SLU with 16 points and 13 rebounds, eight of which came at the offensive end.
La Salle hits the road for a marquee matchup with preseason Atlantic 10 favorite Rhode Island on Wednesday, Jan. 3. Tipoff in Kingston, R.I., is set for 7:00 p.m.