With a little bit of luck at the buzzer, La Salle delivered one of its most impressive wins yet this season, edging Duquesne, 73-72, at Tom Gola Arena on Wednesday.
The Dukes, who started the night in fifth place in the Atlantic 10, came from 11 points down in the late stages of the second half. But Pookie Powell nailed a driving layup with 4.6 seconds to go, capping off his game-high 25 points.
“As we got down court, I just knew I wanted the ball, I wanted to make the big play,” Powell said. “I was ready for it.”
Duquesne’s Eric Williams got up the left wing with the ball and shot an open baseline floater for the win, but it clanked off the rim.
After a 30-30 first half, La Salle started strong in the second half. The Explorers led 52-43 with 11 minutes, 19 seconds to go, and 59-48 with 8:22 left.
That’s when the Dukes turned things up. They scored 17 of the game’s next 22 points to take a 65-64 lead with 3:23 to go. It wasn’t so much a run as a long climb.
Duquesne led, 72-71, when Dukes guard Frankie Hughes missed a long three-pointer with 38 seconds left. La Salle’s Saul Phiri grabbed the rebound and immediately called timeout. The ensuing play got David Beatty a good look from the right corner, but he missed.
Fortunately for the Explorers, Michael Hughes — Duquesne’s top scorer on the night with 18 points — missed two free throws at the other end. La Salle got the rebound, and Powell sprinted to the rim for the winning basket.
“As I was dribbling down, I already knew coach was going to call a spread for me and let me make a play,” Powell said. “Usually, I settle for the step-back jumper or a three, but I knew I needed to get to the basket. So I just went to the basket hard, and just finished the play.”
Powell wasn’t the only Explorer who had a big night. Beatty scored 15 points and Ed Croswell pulled down 16 rebounds — including 10 at the offensive end.
After starting the season 0-10, the Explorers have won eight of 13 games, including five of their last six. La Salle coach Ashley Howard acknowledged that he has looked at the standings and wondered how high his team can go.