Run and gun won a clear decision over moderation Saturday night when Loyola Marymount defeated 17th-ranked La Salle, 121-116.
La Salle, which has been bracing for the return of Philadelphia natives Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, decided to play the game on Loyola's terms. The Explorers took 100 shots to Loyola's 76. It was a mistake.
While Kimble scored 32 points and Gathers had his best game in a month with 27 points and 12 rebounds, La Salle star Lionel (Train) Simmons stalled at 34 points and didn't score in the last 5:40. Another home-grown star, guard Doug Overton, fouled out.
In trying to keep up with the Lions, La Salle made 44% of its shots from the field to Loyola's 59% and sank only 11 of 37 three-point attempts. Simmons, who appeared to tire while playing all 40 minutes and grabbing 19 rebounds, put up three air-ball free throws and took a wildly errant shot from the baseline in the closing minute.
The victory before a sellout crowd of 10,004 on La Salle's home floor improved the 25th-ranked Lions to 9-3. It was La Salle's first loss in nine games.
"Obviously, we're distraught," said La Salle Coach Bill (Speedy) Morris, who earlier in the week spoke of keeping the score in the 60s. "I made the decision to run with them and play schoolyard ball. You can go to any playground and see this kind of basketball. I don't like it."
However, Morris said, he wasn't criticizing Loyola.
"We took 100 shots," he said. "I can't ever remember doing that. If you'd told me we'd take 100 shots and they'd take 76, I'd have to think we'd win. We're just not shooting well. I don't think it was a case of being too tired. We just didn't have it tonight to beat these guys."
Kimble, who was held to 11 points in the first half by a box-and-one defense, saw it differently.
"They get caught up in the (Loyola) system and they don't know what's happening. Were they fatigued? Of course. Lionel shot four air balls, and he's a good foul shooter."
The game left Loyola two-for-two in Philadelphia, and Gathers was gratified he was able to shake the effects of medication he has been taking since fainting Dec. 9.
Loyola fell behind early but Gathers paced a 19-6 burst and the Lions led by as many as 11 points before settling for a 59-55 halftime lead. Gathers had 16 points at the break.
With Jeff Fryer scoring 16 of his 27 points in the second half--making seven of 14 three-point shots--Loyola threatened to pull away several times. But Simmons led a comeback that saw the Explorers tie the score, 83-83, and later take a brief 103-101 lead.
But Simmons went silent after that. Kimble put the Lions ahead, 118-115, with two free throws as his high school buddy, Overton, fouled out with a career high 23 points with 1:30 left. Each team made a free throw apiece before Gathers sealed the victory with 10 seconds left by making both ends of a one-and-one free throw situation.
Gathers, who missed his first six free throws, turned and pointed into the stands. "I was pointing to Father Dave Hagan, who's been on my back since grade school to make my free throws, and my mom," Gathers said. "She tells me make three bounces and shoot and it will always go in. She's not always right."
Gathers made 12 of 20 shots in 30 minutes and played with an energy he has not had in four weeks. He glowered whenever Coach Paul Westhead rested him.
"I feel three or four times better than I did Thursday night (against St. Joseph's). It was like two different people," Gathers said. "It feels super to be able to come home and play one decent game."
Kimble, who made 10 of 14 shots, said he watched Gathers in warmups and noted "that look on his face--I knew he was gonna be back and have a great game."
Westhead said Gathers has "had to play above his dilemma. What you saw tonight was only a tenth of how good he is. It has begun to reverse itself. Hank took one step forward."
Westhead said that once Loyola got a lead, La Salle had little opportunity to slow the ball.
"I think ultimately the pace of the game was in our favor," he said.
Morris, who tried to live up to his nickname, said, "I take the blame."