NEW BRITAIN, Conn. - A year ago, La Salle allowed opponents 78.6 points per game.

Before Thursday night's nonconference game at Central Connecticut State, the Explorers (8-4) were allowing only 63.1 points. They kept it up, smothering the Blue Devils as they cruised to an 85-69 victory.

Freshman forward Jerrell Wright scored a career-high 21 points for La Salle, while Ramon Galloway added 15.

But La Salle's defense was the story as it held the Blue Devils (5-6) to 39.3 percent shooting.

"We had a very disappointing year last year," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "The reason why was we were one of the best offensive teams in the country. We were 20th in the country in scoring. But we were horrible defensively.

"This team has a lot of different kids on it. They want to win. We showed them the stats. Statistics, no matter how you look at them, clearly show that the best defensive teams usually win the most. These kids have bought into that. We're committed to defense. They've done a really good job. They know they have to defend to have a winning team."

La Salle also wasn't too shabby on offense, setting a pair of season highs by sinking 35 baskets and shooting 56.5 percent.

The Blue Devils were in a bind even before they stepped on the court: They were minus their top player, Ken Horton, who was sidelined with an ankle injury. Horton's absence removed an average of 22.5 points and 9.3 rebounds from the Blue Devils lineup.

La Salle turned the game into little more than a half-court scrimmage in the first half, which ended with the Explorers leading by 52-22.

The Explorers led by a modest 10-7 margin when they hit the Blue Devils with a 14-0 run that ballooned their lead to 24-7. Wright ignited the run by tapping in a pair of missed shots, and Sam Mills and Taylor Dunn capped it by burying three-point shots.

The Blue Devils did slice their deficit to 35-20 on a pair of free throws by Robby Ptacek, but La Salle countered with a 17-2 run that produced its 30-point halftime lead.