Jerome Taylor (@ThatGuy_Rome)
PHILADELPHIA — With a little more than 10 minutes remaining in the second half, Lynn Greer III used a pick from Christ Essandoko to knife into the paint for his second field goal of the game.
In a game where the 3-point success seemed destined to determine the outcome of Saturday’s Big 5 matinee, that layup sparked the run that decided the game.
Greer had spent the first ¾ of the game struggling to find his offensive rhythm, but during the last 10 minutes he spearheaded a 34-18 run as St. Joseph’s came back to beat La Salle 88-82.
“This is a big win for us because it’s hard to beat an opponent in the point spread that we did the last time we played them, and then come back and show maturity because they’re not just going to give us,” Saint Joseph's head coach Billy Lange said.
Neither La Salle (11-11, 2-7 Atlantic-10) nor St. Joe’s (15-7, 5-4 A-10) seemed like they could miss from deep in Saturday’s contest, and La Salle, in particular, benefitted from letting it fly from deep, shooting 14-of-34 from 3.
St. Joe's and Billy Lange came back to beat La Salle on Saturday. (Photo: CoBL File)
Coming into Saturday’s contest, La Salle averaged 8.7 made 3-pointers a game. By halftime against the Hawks, they had already matched that mark, burying nine. Jhamir “Jig” Brickus led the way for the Explorers with four first-half 3s before finishing the game with six en route to a 24-point (6-of-8 from 3), eight-assist and eight-rebound outing.
In the end, 51.4% of La Salle’s points came from beyond the arc. To put that in perspective, the 3-pointer accounted for 35.6% of La Salle’s scoring coming into the afternoon, according to KenPom.
The 3-point barrage Brickus and the Explorers put on gave them a 44-38 lead heading into halftime. But the the comeback started with 11:45 remaining in the game when Jig hit a floater to give La Salle a 12-point lead.
The Hawks used their full-court pressure to disrupt La Salle’s offense. La Salle went from having one first-half turnover to five in the second half.
“We’ve used that same pressure in other games, and teams drill 3s, and then you’ll say we can’t guard the 3-point line — it’s all about the result,” Lange said. “These results led to a couple of turnovers … so today it was a good move.”
But Lange thought the diversity of his offense spurred the comeback to give the Hawks their second win over La Salle this year.
St. Joe's came out of halftime determined to find an equalizer to La Salle’s 3-point success, attacking the rim with Essandoko's post-ups (Essandoko finished with 16 points and nine rebounds). However, by the halfway point of the second half, Greer III and freshman Xzayvier Brown started using the dribble to get into the paint.
Greer scored 12 of his 16 points with less than 10 minutes remaining and finished with 10 rebound for a double-double. Brown scored all nine of his points after intermission. Both did it by hunting mismatches off screens and taking advantage of how tight La Salle was playing Erik Reynolds II (21 points) and others off-ball.
“We’re trying to drive the ball and get 3s. Every team now is fanning out, so there’s no kick-outs,” Lange said. “So you get a guy like [Greer] who can shoulder a guy and score, you get a guy like X who can put a guy in the mix and get to the rim … it helps us be not so one dimensional.”
With 6:07 remaining, the Hawks’ commitment to diversifying their scoring paid off. After a Rasheer Fleming offensive rebound, Brown was able to drive baseline to convert a reverse and give the Hawks a 70-69 lead.
They wouldn’t trail again.
La Salle kept it close until the end. With 38.6 seconds, down four, Brickus drove the baseline and got a solid look for Tunde Vahlberg Fasasi for 3, but it was off the front rim. Reynolds II was fouled and nailed both free throws to ice the game.
“The Atlantic 10 is loaded with good players … it’s a really good league that deserves a lot of recognition, and La Salle’s one of those teams,” Lange said. “[La Salle’s] backcourt when they got it cooking is as hard a cover as we had all season, so to have a victory today is impressive. … We weathered a lot, we’ve been through a lot … we earned this victory today.”
Both teams have nine games remaining on their A-10 schedule. With the win, SJU moves to fifth in the conference and now prepares for No. 21 Dayton on Tuesday at Hagan Arena. The Explorers will also be at home for the next matchup when Saint Louis comes to the Tom Gola Arena on Wednesday.