Ashley Howard said La Salle’s first-half offensive performance against Delaware was probably its worst this season. Even with that being the case, Howard’s Explorers were only down three.

The execution changed in the second half. La Salle (3-4) outscored Delaware by 13 and defeated the Blue Hens, 71-61, at Tom Gola Arena.

“We guarded in the second half,” Howard said. “Second-half defense has been our Achilles’ heel. We’ve been talking since Wednesday about us having to respond, bring energy, and communicate on defense.”

Howard is hard on senior guard David Beatty because the coach wants him to have a big senior year. After a slow start, Beatty has now scored in double figures in his last three games. His team-high 18 points against Delaware (2-2) led the Explorers.

“I’m going to keep pushing him to the limit,” Howard said. “Defensively, he did some great things for us. When he’s guarding and his mind is on that, I think offensively he’s not thinking about offense, and he ends up having a good offensive game.”

Sherif Kenney scored 16 points and Jhamir Brickus added 12 for the Explorers, who shot 45.6% from the field despite going 6-for-21 from three.

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Christian Ray is one of those players a coach doesn’t have to draw a play up for, but he’ll still find a way to impact the game. He scored seven of his nine points in the second half, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Ray was everywhere defensively, and his versatility was a big reason why the defense improved in the final 20 minutes. He finished with a team-high plus-24 in 20 minutes.

“He just does whatever I ask him to do,” Howard said of the sophomore out of the Haverford School. “I told him at some point, ‘You’ll be the heart and soul of our team.’ He does all the stuff that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. He came up huge for us today. We went small, and he’s really the catalyst for that lineup.”

La Salle travels to College Park on Tuesday for a road contest versus Maryland.