La Salle warmed up cold Fort Myer last night with a clinic in jump shooting and fast-break basketball and left American University gasping, 123-103, in an East Coast Conference contest before 1,600 fans.
Both teams forgot about defense and played NBA-style ball for 40 full minutes. Each team established the sort of team records that keep coaches awake at night but it is AU Coach Gary Williams who will most remember this.
The Eagles, now 6-3 in ECC play and 11-10 overall, tried a zone against the Philadelphia invaders in the first half and were burned by the Explorers' 62 percent shooting and went to the locker room trailing, 63-53.
"We were only behind by two points (actually it was four) with a minute to play before the half and we let it out to 10," said a disappointed Williams. "I thought if we were even at the half, we'd be okay. I knew they wouldn't slow it down. They aren't that kind of team. We switched to a man-to-man, but it didn't help. Nothing worked."
AU's moan-to-man defense was even worse than the zone tried in the first half. The hot-shooting visitors got free on virtually every possession and threw in baskets from everywhere. They hit 28 of 38 (74 percent) in the final 20 minutes to finally put out AU's lights for good.
La Salle, not exactly one of your better defensive clubs either, led, 87-80, with 9:55 left before deciding to run even faster. With 6-foot-7 Michael Brooks controlling the defensive boards, the Explorers ran off an 18-2 blitz that sent them charging comfortably ahead, 105-82, with 6 1/2 minutes to play.
Kurt Kanaskie (20 points) scored three of the baskets on 20-footers, and Kevin Lynam and Darryl Gladden each added two baskets in the spurt.
Kanaskie fouled out at that point but the 6-1 junior guard, who made 10 of 16 tries, mostly from beyond, had done his part. Brooks, who scored 28 points on a variety of jumpers, bank shots and twisting layups, was unstoppable as he became the second-leading scorer in La Salle history. He came in the game needing only five points to surpass Kenny Durrett's 1,679 total. Tom Gola is the all-time leader with 2,461.
La Salle's transition game was just too quick for AU. The Explorers had nine three-on-one and four-on-two fast-break situations and converted them all. The muscular Brooks, always the trailer, made sure of that.
"I'm surprised they (AU) tried to run with us. Not too many teams can do that," said James Connolly, who also was near-perfect from the 18-foot range, hitting seven of nine tries for 15 points. "This is the first game we've clicked in both halves. Of coures, we're not known for our defense, either."
AU's power forward Boo Bowers scored 28 points and Robert (Piper) Harvey, a transfer from La Salle, added 19, to keep AU from being further destroyed. The Eagles shot 50 percent and outrebounded La Salle, 45-40, but defensivelt, they just could not handle the quicker Explorers, now 7-0 in the ECC and 12-9 overall.
La Salle, which set a season-high point total and a school-record combined score total (226 breaks old mark of 220), was more than content to let the Eagles score, especially once it got ahead.
AU, which allowed St. Joseph's to its season high in a 92-68 loss Wednesday night, also saw a school record established for combined score. On two other occasions, the combined score of AU games reched 225.