This was La Salle's chance to show it belonged on a bigger stage. The problem is, Villanova just does not allow other Big 5 teams to have much hope.
In their ongoing Big 5 run, Jay Wright's Villanova teams come out with a passion for every game and never let up. La Salle went to Villanova on Saturday with experience, talent and some vision of an upset. The Wildcats never gave them a chance, forcing their best player into a very atypical performance while winning comfortably, 81-63.
La Salle (3-2, 0-1 Big 5) had nearly as many turnovers (19) in the first half as minutes. The Explorers threw lob passes to the rafters and telegraphed passes to defenders. They could not make long shots (1-for-10 from the arc) or foul shots (20-for-37).
Villanova (6-0, 2-0) pressured the ball from the start and rushed La Salle all game. The Explorers probably are better than they played, but Villanova just does that to teams, especially city teams. The Wildcats have won 20 of their last 21 City Series games. They have also won 30 straight on campus.
It did not help La Salle that senior Ruben Guillandeaux (foot) did not play. It would have given them another sorely needed ballhandler. Villanova was still without freshman center Mouphtaou Yarou (viral infection) and Reggie Redding (suspended).
The reality is that the 'Cats are more than deep enough to withstand some personnel losses. La Salle is not.
La Salle senior star Rodney Green was too passive early and then too anxious late. He shot just 2-for-14 with seven turnovers.
La Salle had nearly as many offensive rebounds (26) as Villanova had rebounds (27). Which was nice, but also irrelevant.
The Wildcats did not shoot well or even look that smooth. But that is rarely the point with Wright's teams. They are, more than anything, relentless. The Wildcats had 16 steals and eight blocks against La Salle, numbers the Explorers were not going to overcome under any circumstance.
The last game of the Philly Hoop Group Classic at the Palestra was for a championship of sorts in the hybrid tournament where all the matchups are pre-determined.
However, neither team gave a championship-level shooting performance. Missed shots were the rule. When the accounting was done, St. John's had beaten Temple, 55-48.
The Red Storm (5-0) shot just 16-for-49 (32.7 percent). Which was better than the Owls' 28.1 percent on 18-for-64 shooting.
The Owls (4-2) have shown real promise in the early season, but two bad shooting games cost them at Georgetown and against the Red Storm.