After going 33-32 over the previous two seasons, Temple is looking to contend for an NCAA tournament berth this season.
The Owls return a veteran cast and a sophomore class that has some players who appear vastly improved.
That combination pushed Temple to Tuesday's 75-67 Big Five win over visiting La Salle in the opening game for both teams Tuesday at the Liacouras Center.
This game consisted of a contrast of head-coaching careers, with one just starting and the other ready to conclude. It was the debut for La Salle head coach Ashley Howard, the Drexel graduate and former Villanova assistant coach. Meanwhile, Temple's Fran Dunphy was beginning his final season before being succeeded by associate head coach Aaron McKie.
Temple sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis, who led the team in energy and hustle a year ago, is in line to do the same again. One difference is that the 6-foot-4 guard is aggressively looking for his shot. He had 14 points and 13 rebounds.
This came after he averaged 7.5 points a year ago and made just one start.
"It is being comfortable with my teammates," Pierre-Louis said. "My teammates told me to be aggressive and it helped me a lot."
The other sophomore who opened some eyes was 6-10 Justyn Hamilton, who played just 28 minutes in 11 appearances last season. Hamilton had four points and three rebounds in 10-plus minutes and showed a good court presence while also appearing to be a willing defender.
"Throughout the ups and downs with me not playing as much last season, I always tried to keep my head up, keep my confidence level up," Hamilton said.
Temple also received 15 points from Quinton Rose and 13 from Shizz Alston, its two leading scorers last season.
La Salle was led by 6-6 junior Isiah Deas, who scored 23 points after averaging 9.5 a year ago. Guard Pookie Powell added 14 points.
The Explorers, who trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half, cut the lead to 66-60 when Traci Carter scored on a layup after making a steal with 1 minute and 31 seconds left.
Alston then hit a jumper and the Owls could breath easier.
La Salle often played with four guards and paid for it on the glass. Temple outrebounded the Explorers, 50-28, including 15-5 on the offensive glass.
The teams were tied at 28 in a first half that didn't have much of a flow to it. Temple started to take control early in the second half, but La Salle kept hanging around.