READING, Pa. (AP) — Prized freshman Lonnie Walker IV struggled in his return home, but Dewan Huell scored 16 points and No. 11 Miami did just enough to get by La Salle 57-46 on Wednesday night and remain unbeaten.
Part of Miami’s recruiting pitch for the projected NBA lottery pick was a game in his hometown. Walker was held to five points and 2-of-8 shooting, and his woes were contagious. Miami (4-0) shot 37 percent from the field and the Explorers were 0 of 15 from 3-point range.
B.J. Johnson scored 16 points on 6-of-20 shooting and Pookie Powell added 15 on 5-of-15 from the field for La Salle (3-3) in its third straight loss.
La Salle traveled about 60 miles from campus, but it was a Miami home game and the crowd was solidly behind their local hero’s team. Walker has provided a needed boost to a struggling city northwest of Philadelphia.
Once a bustling railroad and mill town of 120,000, Reading has been in a steady decline for decades. It ranked as the poorest city in the nation in the 2010 Census based on median household income. Population has plummeted to under 88,000.
Walker and his Reading High School team had given the city something to be proud of in March, winning its first state title.
Many in the crowd wore red Reading High state champion T-shirts and sweatshirts, with sprinkles of Miami orange and La Salle blue and gold sprinkled in.
Walker didn’t start — he hasn’t yet this season — but the crowd roared as he got off the bench and walked to the scorer’s table 4 minutes in.
While Walker didn’t appear to have any issue with the left ankle he turned in a win over Florida A&M last week, it was a struggle. He missed his first three shots before finally bringing the crowd to its feet with a nifty crossover dribble and bank shot in the lane in the final seconds of an ugly first half that made it 19-19.
Walker couldn’t get it going in the second half, either. But he fed Bruce Brown Jr. for a 3-pointer with 3:23 left to put Miami up 49-39 during an 8-0 run.
Huell hit 8 of10 shots and added seven rebounds.
La Salle: The Explorers dropped their third straight game to a Power 5 team (Northwestern, Boston College), but this was one they could have won with a decent shooting performance. They shot 29 percent from the field.
Miami: It was tough to tell if Walker was 100 percent with his ankle. He likely had some nerves. It was far from the performance he would have liked. Walker has been held to single digits in three straight games.
La Salle hosts Big 5 rival Temple on Sunday before departing for a two-game tournament in Northern Ireland next week.
Miami returns home to face North Florida on Saturday before traveling to No. 14 Minnesota next Wednesday.