Tyreek Duren's unerring jump shots and heady floor game certainly pleased La Salle coach John Giannini. So did Ramon Galloway's hyperactivity and the continued progress of freshman big man Jerrell Wright.
Yet, what Giannini wants more than anything from this season's Explorers is a commitment to defense, an important aspect of the game that was of little interest to the 2010-11 Explorers.
The kind of play that used to drive Giannini to histrionics is no longer acceptable to the La Salle players, and it was again evident in Thursday night's breezy, 70-53 win over Boston University at Tom Gola Arena.
"We have people who are more devoted [to defense]," said Duren, who had 23 points, 5 assists, 7 rebounds, and only 1 turnover in 36 minutes. "Last year nobody was really focused on defense. Everybody just wanted to score. This year we've got pretty much a whole new team."
With Duren scoring 12 points in the first 10 minutes, La Salle (9-4) took control of the game early and rolled to its eighth consecutive home win dating back to last season, its longest home winning streak since 1990.
The Explorers went into the game ranked second in the Atlantic Ten Conference in field-goal percentage defense (38.1 percent) and third in opponents' scoring. They have held four opponents in the low 50s, and there were stretches of Thursday's game when the Explorers gave the Terriers (4-9) no room to execute their offense. BU shot 40 percent, which was fine with Giannini, but not completely satisfying.
"Forty percent is a decent defensive field-goal percentage but not great," he said. "The way we broke it down with our team is if you're in the 30s, you're awfully good, if you're in the 40s you're pretty average, if you're in the 50s you probably stink. We wish one shot was different."
La Salle, which has one game before A-10 play, was without starting sophomore guard Sam Mills, who sat out the game with a sprained ankle that is not considered severe. Freshman D.J. Peterson started in Mills' place.
Meanwhile, B.U. was at a significant disadvantage without guard D.J. Irving, its top playmaker and second leading scorer. The sophomore from Archbishop Carroll suffered a concussion during the 68-43 loss to Villanova two weeks ago. Irving is averaging 12.6 points and 4.9 assists a game. His place was taken by senior Matt Griffin, son of former St. Joseph's coach John Griffin and a graduate of St. Joseph's Prep.
Duren said the absence of his backcourt mate Mills, who leads the Explorers with 28 three-point baskets, prompted him to focus more on scoring than he normally does.
"I had to be a little more aggressive because Ramon [Galloway] wasn't starting, and we were playing without Sam, so I just came out a little more aggressive than I have in the past," he said.