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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stewart ready to face close friend Duren, La Salle

Danny Stewart faces former High School teammate Tyreek Duren/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE
LAWRENCEVILLE — Danny Stewart will always remember his senior season at Philadelphia Catholic League powerhouse Neumann-Goretti.

The Saints went 30-1, finishing the 2009-10 season ranked No. 2 in the country. Their only loss was by one point to Yates High School (Texas).

When Stewart and his Rider teammates face La Salle Thursday night, he’ll find a familiar face in the Explorers’ backcourt.

On that Neumann-Goretti team with Stewart was Tyreek Duren — La Salle’s junior point guard.

“It was the greatest thing ever,” said Stewart of that magical season. “We walked into every game knowing we were going to win. We had a goal to be No. 1 and we ended up No. 2 by one point. So it wasn’t a bad year.”

This will be the third time Stewart and Duren have met since high school. They split the first two games — Rider won two seasons ago at Tom Gola Arena and La Salle took last year’s contest at the Palestra.

Any trash talk for the rubber match?

“No, nothing like that,” Stewart said.

“We more talk about what we’ll do afterward and what we’re doing during the season. We don’t necessarily go back and forth. It’s always good to see you old teammates doing well and I’m fortunate enough to be playing against one.”

Stewart knows better than anybody the challenge Duren and the Explorers (3-1) present.

Duren leads La Salle in scoring, averaging 15.5 points per game with Ramon Galloway (15.3 ppg) right behind. 

Tyreek Duren is La Salle's leading scorer/ AP Photo
“He’s a crafty guard,” Stewart said of Duren. “He can really handle the ball. He’s got better every year.”

The Explorers are coming off a 77-74 overtime victory against Big 5 rival Villanova that snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Wildcats. It was La Salle’s first win in the series since 2001.

Duren, who was named Big 5 Player of the Week, scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half and overtime while Galloway finished with a game-high 26.

That certainly got the attention of Rider coach Kevin Baggett.

“You have to keep Duren out of the lane,” Baggett said. “They’re going to set a lot of ball screens, so we have to be prepared for that. They play an NBA style in terms of a lot of ball screens, a lot of one-on-one with guys standing around benefitting from other guys getting in the lane.

“We have to be ready to keep them out of the lane. We can’t let them have open looks because they’ve had a lot of those lately.”

On paper, La Salle has the guard play to handle the Broncs’ pressure defense that has forced opponents into 14.2 turnovers per game.

Baggett said Rider (4-3), which has won two straight, is still going to press, but it has to be disciplined when it does.

“If we sit down and guard and keep them in front without reaching, I think we’ll have a chance,” said the coach, who received his first technical foul during the four-game road trip. “It’s still about discipline. We can’t give them second shots and we can’t let them get in the lane.”

Baggett admitted he’s a fan of La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini, whose team is coming off a 21-win season and berth in the NIT, but also knows what the bottom line is.

Even when your friends are on the opposite bench.

“At the end of the day,” Baggett said, “I want to win, and they want to win as well.”


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