The hardest thing for La Salle coach Ashley Howard is that he knows how hard his players are working.
With a new coach, a new system, and a bunch of new players, growing pains were expected, but that doesn’t make the losing any easier.
Howard wants to see the effort his players have put forth rewarded with a victory.
But a team can’t just wish itself into the win column, and right now, it’s still not happening for the Explorers.
Shooting at 33.8 percent and committing 18 turnovers, La Salle got blitzed by Bucknell, 92-79, on Tuesday at Tom Gola Arena.
Coming off what was their best effort in a spirited loss against reigning NCAA champion Villanova on Saturday, the Explorers couldn’t sustain the momentum and lost their ninth game in nine outings.
“I do," Howard said when asked about wanting to see his team rewarded with a win, "but, at the same time, I understand that you get rewarded sometimes when you give the maximum, focus, and concentration.
“Collectively, I don’t think we did that today. I want our guys to earn whatever they get. Today wasn’t a game where I felt we earned a win. Bucknell outplayed us on both sides.”
Bucknell (4-3) out of the Patriot League got 24 points from senior Nate Sestina, 19 from Kimbal Mackenzie, and 17 from Avi Toomer.
The Bison led, 40-34, but broke the game open with a 22-9 run in the first eight minutes of the second half. La Salle never cut the lead below seven after that.
The Explorers again played without leading scorer Pookie Powell and freshman forward Jared Kimbrough. Taking 24.3 points away from a team that was already struggling isn’t something La Salle is equipped to overcome.
In situations such as this, looking at the parts can sometimes be better than seeing the whole.
Howard was already force-feeding experience on young players, as three sophomores and two freshmen were playing, and, against Villanova, freshman Jack Clark made his debut after finally recovering from a knee injury that cost him most of his senior season at Cheltenham High.
La Salle had contemplated redshirting Clark, who was ranked fourth in Pennsylvania in the class of 2018, but he was ready sooner than expected, and with three players out against 'Nova, there was a need.
Clark followed up a nine-point effort by scoring a team-high 21 against Bucknell. Once again, he made three three-pointers. In two games, Clark has six treys, and is shooting 66.6 percent from long distance.
His performance was just one facet of the contribution from La Salle youngsters that gives hope that things can improve as the season goes on and they get more experience.
Sophomore forward Miles Brookins had a career-high 19 points, with six rebounds and three blocked shots, while sophomore guard Jamir Moultrie added 19 points, which matched his career high.
Freshman Ed Croswell had a double-double with 14 rebounds and 11 points for the Explorers.