"In all things, I adore the will of God in my regard." - Jean Baptiste de la Salle
Game #9-379: Fordham Rams at La Salle ExplorersFebruary 9, 2013 2:00 pm
Tom Gola Arena
PHILADELPHIA - "I don't know La Salle."
"You don't know La Salle University? It's a big
college, they actually have a pretty good basketball team, north part of Philly? Someone must have had to go there at some point?"
With my streak of making tip-offs about to be crushed in most amazing fashion, somehow a taxi driver at the train station in Philadelphia had never heard of La Salle. Just when we had fears that the Mid-majority was getting too big for its own good.
To truly tell the tale of how I ended up at Gola Arena, you have to go all the way back to Thursday. This was originally the one weekend I was not going to travel outside of Connecticut. My soccer team had a later start time on Saturday, and I found a tripleheader spaced out enough that would let me see three separate conferences without leaving the Nutmeg State (Fairfield, Central Connecticut, Hartford).
By Friday morning, all three games were cancelled. In fact, everything was cancelled. Friday soccer practice, Saturday morning soccer match, even school
. With good reason, it obviously turned out.
You know by now I went to New York City on Friday, but the plan was to head back to New Haven Saturday morning and figure out what to do next
. Maybe West Point? But, amazingly, in unprecedented fashion, the trains from New York to New Haven were not running. There was no way home.
So I was left with two choices, basically. Go see Scarlett Johansson in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" across from my hotel
that I stole for $49 (after others had bailed out due to the weather) on Broadway, or take a train to Philadelphia to see some basketball.
I'm sure Scarlett will see be hot when basketball season is over.
You should already know as well that I wandered around Central Park for a bit
, but left myself plenty of time to figure out Philadelphia's public transportation system for a 2 p.m. tip-off. But just into New Jersey, the train just stopped, engine trouble. Ninety-minutes later, they put us on another - already crowded train - heading to Philly. My margin for error was shot. It was have to be taxi or nothing to make tip-off.
As other taxis honked behind us, I finally said to the driver, "Look, I have a GPS on my phone
, just drive, and I'll tell you where to go."
I made it 10 minutes before the tip, $21 lighter than I would have been with the public transportation, which I may try to work out with Amtrak.
The streak lives for another day.
Alas, La Salle's opponent Saturday at Gola Arena, Fordham, didn't seem as excited as I was to escape New York, or maybe they didn't have a chance in a blizzard of Explorer #superhoops. Sam Mills and Ramon Galloway would combine to hit 12 of them, and each had one in the first 90 seconds of the game. It quickly got to 10-0, and I put my head down fully expecting Fordham coach Tom Pecora to call time, but he didn't, perhaps conceding already. He might as well have. Hey, when you recently lost by 45 at Dayton and haven't won a true road game since 2011, I guess that's the way it goes.
To be fair, La Salle really couldn't miss, shooting 13-for-19 from behind the arc in the first half. By the end, a Harlem Globetrotters game had broken out, complete with behind-the-back passes, outrageous alley-oop tries, and 30-footers. It was 56-25 by the break.
The low point (yes, it was still to come) finally arrived six minutes into the second half, when impressive big man Steve Zach grabbed a rebound and tried an impossible outlet that you'd only try up 40 for D.J. Peterson. It was predictably batted away, and seemed to bounce around in the vicinity of two Fordham players for minutes before somehow Peterson snatched it away and kicked to Galloway, who decided to shoot a 28-footer in transition. Why not?
The scoreboard read La Salle 71, Fordham 27 with 13:18 to go, and that - to the credit of Dr. John Giannini (showdown between Dr. John and Dr. Brett in the NCAA tournament?) - was the end of the day for most of the starters. I often wondered why coaches inevitably don't empty their bench until the final media time out at the earliest, walk-on O.J. Lewis got 10 minutes of run in this one, getting off six shots, the crowd erupting when he finally hit a #superhoop.
I was somewhat amazed to look up to the banners of Gola Arena and see that the last time La Salle has gone to the NCAA Tournament was 1992, a streak they seem to have a decent chance to put an end to next month (having beaten Butler and VCU back-to-back a couple of weeks ago
), although that could change quickly in the Atlantic-10.
In the end, LaSalle hit 18 three-pointers, which Parks Smith would want me to point out was the most in Division I since Longwood had 20 against VMI in December of 2011. If Giannini was so inclined, it surely could have more. It also piqued my interest that the 18 tied a school record, one of the other times La Salle got 18 was on Dec. 31, 1990 in a 133-118 win over Loyola Marymount
, the year after they had engaged in a legendary battle at the now demolished Philadephia Civic Center. Hank Gathers, Bo Kimble, and Paul Westhead were obviously all Philly natives, which added to the intrigue.
I was surprised to notice that Gola Arena hadn't opened in 1998 (before that La Salle had never played its home games on campus, the Civic Center wasn't even all that close), with all due respect, it seemed older than that, and only holds 3,400 people, all in a bleacher-style set-up that doesn't make it easy to get in or out of seats near the top. And to compete in the current Atlantic-10 with a building like that deserves a lot of praise, and maybe gives Fordham some hope, other than the 35-point beating they took that could have been much, much worse.
I was off to the Palestra for the nightcap, and obviously didn't have a car, nor $21 to spend on another taxi, so public transportation it was. I downloaded the "Embark PHL" app, which was nice enough to give me a route that was supposed to take about 40 minutes. The two closest stops on the SEPTA Orange line were Olney and Logan, and the walk took me through north Philly, eventually spitting me out on Broad Street.
We've talked about HBUCs and the issues that affect Our Game, but it's important to remember that the majority of schools that we deal with have at least some portion of their roster from the inner city, of which most of the clientele of the school does not look or come from the same background that they do. You need look no further than La Salle, who had Galloway and Tyreek Duren as Philly natives in the lineup, yet a quick scan of the La Salle student section showed it was mostly white.
(To be fair, La Salle ranks high on the "diversity index" and according to Forbes is 18% African-American.)Way back in Game 6 of this site's existence, Kyle talked about the story of Jean Baptiste de la Salle
, the French explorer for whom the school is named. I also tend to trust a little too easily, but the only problem I faced was only having a $20 bill and the SEPTA worker not giving out change (I walked across Broad Street to a tiny fish shop run by an Asian family that seemed like it could have been straight off the set of Do The Right Thing in north Philly, and they were nice enough to change my $20 with just the purchase of a soda without complaint).
When I got to the stop for Temple, suddenly the makeup of the people on the train changed, and I was near the Palestra in just a few minutes.
Ironically, that Mid-majority article from way back in 2004 was the sixth game of the Dr. John Era as well at La Salle. That alone should give us reason to root for them down the stretch. If they make a run in the NCAA Tournament, maybe the Philly taxi drivers will even know where the school is.
at LA SALLE 89, FORDHAM 53
FORDHAM 6-18 (2-7) -- B. Allen 5-10 0-0 12; R. Rhoomes 3-3 0-2 6; J. Myers 2-4 6-6 10; M. Thomas 3-9 2-2 9; B. Frazier 1-10 0-0 2; K. Robinson 0-2 0-0 0; R. Canty 2-6 1-1 5; T. Leonard 5-8 0-0 10; J. Short 1-7 1-2 4; L. Zivkovic 1-2 0-0 2; B. Smith 1-5 0-0 3. Totals 19-56 10-13 51.
LA SALLE 16-6 (6-3) -- T. Garland 6-13 5-6 17; R. Galloway 6-9 2-2 19; T. Duren 5-5 2-2 16; S. Mills 7-8 0-0 21; J. Wright 2-8 0-0 4; S. Zack 2-5 0-0 4; T. Dunn 0-4 0-0 0; R. Brown 1-3 0-0 3; G. Hunt 0-1 1-2 1; O. Lewis 1-6 1-2 4; D. Peterson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-63 11-14 89.
Three-point goals: FORD 3-16 (B. Frazier 0-4; K. Robinson 0-1; J. Short 1-4; B. Smith 1-3; L. Zivkovic 0-1; J. Myers 0-1; M. Thomas 1-2), LAS 18-33 (T. Dunn 0-4; R. Galloway 5-7; T. Duren 4-4; S. Mills 7-8; T. Garland 0-4; R. Brown 1-2; D. Peterson 0-1; O. Lewis 1-3); Rebounds: FORD 34 (R. Canty 9), LAS 31 (J. Wright 7); Assists: FORD 12 (J. Myers 6), LAS 22 (T. Duren 8); Total Fouls -- FORD 11, LAS 12; Fouled Out: FORD-None; LAS-None.