#10 Villanova Wildcats (6-0) vs. La Salle Explorers (4-2)
When: Wednesday, December 3, 2014, at 8:30 p.m.
Where: Tom Gola Arena, Philadelphia, PA
Coverage: CBS Sports Network
La Salle’s Previous Season Record: 15-16, Lost to St. Bonaventure in Opening Round of A-10 Tournament
Key Players for La Salle: #21 Jordan Price (6-5, 220) So., G; #0 Steve Zack (6-11, 245) Sr., C; #25 Jerrell Wright (6-8, 245) Sr., F
Scouting Report: The La Salle Explorers return home after a nightmarish Thanksgiving weekend. After a great 4-0 start, the Explorers lost the next two games. They did have a tall task in front of them, facing the then-ranked #8 Virginia and Vanderbilt. In the loss to Virginia, Jordan Price played well. The redshirt sophomore, who transferred in from Auburn last season, has been a godsend for the Explorers. La Salle has had recent success from transfers; take Ramon Galloway and Tyrone Garland for example. Galloway (South Carolina) and Garland (Virginia Tech) became the focal points of the team when they arrived at La Salle; Price is no different. So far, he has had no problem transitioning in. Price is their leading scorer with 17.7 points per game. He can make it from anywhere and has no issue with driving to the basket or taking the three point shot. Don’t foul him though; he will capitalize on free throws, making nearly 80% of them so far this season. Vanderbilt was able to do so well because they shut Price down, holding him to only eight points off of 2-for-12 shooting. As Price struggled, Jerrell Wright stepped up. The 6’8″ forward scored a game-high 19 points in the loss to Vanderbilt. Wright can score inside and grab rebounds too. His averages in scoring (11.0) and rebounding (7.5) are second best on the team but still pretty good. Joining Wright in the frontcourt is Steve Zack. Zack is a better defender and rebounder than he is a scorer. However, don’t count him out just yet. The senior center can quietly chip in 10 points without notice. If he’s grabbing boards and locking down the paint, that’s a good game for him, but if he’s scoring too – that’s a problem. He leads the team in rebounding with 8.2 per game. Also keep an eye out for D.J. Peterson. He may not be making the big plays or posting dominant numbers, but he does the little things well. Peterson is one of the better defenders on this team. He will also grab rebounds and look to give his teammates good scoring opportunities. As for La Salle’s bench, they have two freshmen that stand out, Johnnie Shuler and Amar Stukes. Shuler hasn’t gotten much playing time, but he changed all that in the previous game against Vanderbilt. The freshman guard logged a season-high 14 minutes, as he made the most of his time on the court. He had a nine point game off of 3-for-4 shooting and added four rebounds. Given his performance, his play warrants more playing time. The question as for whether or not he can replicate it will be answered on Wednesday night. On the other hand, playing time hasn’t been a problem for Stukes. However, his play has recently declined. After a decent start to the season, he struggled in the last two games. He had back-to-back two point performances, despite being given a total of 37 minutes during that stretch. If he can heat up, he will do well as a contributor coming off the bench. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening.
Outlook: Villanova gets its first taste of Big Five competition the season. Last year, they blew by every team in the Big Five with ease. La Salle will surely give this game everything they’ve got. After losing two straight, they have an opportunity to turn it around at home against a rival team. The Wildcats’ frontcourt will be tested in this game, much like they were in the Michigan game. La Salle has comparable size and will not fold over easily like the smaller teams before them. While the talent level may be different, they definitely have size up front to rival Villanova’s. Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston need to be ready for the post game down low. While La Salle usually looks to run their offense through their guards, Jay Wright will definitely have his defense geared towards stopping Price. If they are successful, La Salle will look to take it inside. Villanova’s bigs will have to be ready for that. Vanderbilt demonstrated that stopping Price is very doable and Villanova has the talent to emulate it. Their backcourt is much more gifted than La Salle’s on both sides of the ball, containing Price should not be a problemThe Wildcats’ defense has done a great job of frustrating opposing players to cough up the ball; it’s a facet of their game that has remained consistent all throughout the season thus far. It will be the difference maker in this game and lead them to victory.