It was not shocking that La Salle easily defeated winless Hartford on Saturday.

But the Explorers' 10-4 record entering Atlantic 10 play has been somewhat surprising.

Ramon Galloway and Tyreek Duren each had 19 points to lead surging La Salle to a 73-55 victory over the Hawks that extended the Explorers' Gola Arena record winning streak to nine straight games.

Sam Mills returned to the lineup after a one-game absence due to an ankle injury and netted 10 points for the Explorers. Earl Pettis also reached double figures with 11.

As it has all season, the Explorers defense keyed their win over the Hawks (0-12), who are coached by St. Joseph's graduate and former Penn and La Salle assistant John Gallagher.

The Explorers trailed 17-13 with 10 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the first half before closing the period on a 20-4 run. La Salle forced the Hawks into nine turnovers and 1-for-9 shooting, including 0 for 4 from the arc, during the decisive stretch.

Hartford never got within double digits after halftime.

"We're playing together as a team and playing defense," Galloway said. "We pride ourselves on defense and that's what we're focused on this year."

In large part due to Galloway, a junior transfer from South Carolina, La Salle is holding teams to 61.5 points and 38.5 percent field-goal shooting after giving up 78.6 points and 44.9 percent from the field last season when they finished below .500 (15-18) for the 16th time in the last 18 seasons.

"Just defense, that's all we really preach is defense," Duren said. "The scoring is going to happen anyway, so as long as we shut people down we're going to win."

The Explorers have won 8 of 9 overall, and the 10 nonconference victories are the most for any La Salle squad since the 1989-90 unit had as many.

But the victories have come at the expense of many soft opponents, as La Salle entered Saturday's game with the 262nd toughest schedule in the country, according to realtimerpi.com.

Now, the opponents' skill level will be ratcheted up, beginning with Wednesday's league opener at home against Xavier.

"Now the competition changes and we go from playing good teams to real good teams every night," La Salle coach John Giannini said of A-10 play.

The Explorers were picked to finish 13th in the 14-team A-10 in the preseason media poll, but look primed to exceed those expectations.

"You can't blame them for picking us that," Duren said of the Explorers, who last reached a postseason tournament in 1992. "As of right now we're showing everybody that prediction is wrong."