There were times, especially early, during La Salle's 75-67 season-opening loss at Temple on Tuesday that the Explorers showed the culture and style of play that first-year coach Ashley Howard is trying to build.
Be aggressive, contest everything, give away nothing, and make the opposition work hard for everything it gets during a game. Howard wants those things to become second-nature to his players – things they do by rote.
Still, if La Salle already had all the pieces to be a high-level basketball team, then Howard wouldn't have been hired to rebuild and restore the tradition of the Explorers basketball program.
This is the beginning of a work in progress, which means there will be growing pains along the way.
"This was the first day of our process," Howard said. "We learned. We made some mistakes. I'm disappointed that we lost, but I'm proud that our guys battled to the end. … How guys came out hard and with a lot of energy. Now we have to learn how to sustain that for 40 minutes. Games aren't won in the first 10 minutes."
Dealing with size will be a problem for La Salle. The Explorers aren't just guard-oriented. They are small guard oriented. On more than a few occasions, Howard had four players under 6-foot-3 on the court, with one big man.
The Explorers weren't afraid to drive to the basket, but they were always contested by Temple big men. If La Salle is going to be limited to being a jump-shooting team, it will have to do better than shoot 8-for-24 on three-pointers.
La Salle's aggressiveness affected Temple (1-0) in the first half, but the Owls figured out that the most effective way to deal with the pesky, swiping hands of the smaller Explorers was to create a little space and shoot over them.
The Owls also beat the Explorers on the boards, 50-28.
On offense, La Salle (0-1) had little inside presence besides 6-10 sophomore center Miles Brookins, who had 10 points. Howard gave minutes to freshmen forwards Jared Kimbrough and Ed Croswell, but they will need time to develop just like everything else the coach is trying to do.
"Temple crushed us on the boards," Howard said. "I think we needed to feel what it felt like to get crushed on the glass. Now when we go back to practice, we battle it out with each other and grow from this. We just don't have any older, experienced big men. We need our guards to do more."