La Salle can’t erase its first 10 games. The Explorers lost each one.

So although three wins in their last four games had the Explorers seeing a distant light in the darkness, the truth is that they are still overmatched in most games.

That’s one of the costs of having to go through growing pains during a rebuild.

When the opposition is a veteran team with enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament, things can get out of hand.

St. Louis was picked as the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Billikens start three seniors and three All-Atlantic 10 preseason team members.

This had blowout written all over it and, perhaps, if the Explorers weren’t learning and maturing during those 0-for-struggles, it would have been.

This, however, isn’t the same team – and it hasn’t been since getting smashed by Penn on Dec. 8.

Now, it’s becoming clear that the system that first-year coach Ashley Howard implemented is becoming second nature. The Explorers are getting it and playing better.

No, La Salle did not upset the Billikens. They lost, 71-64, but there were more signs of progress.

La Salle trailed St. Louis, 64-63, with just under 2 ½ minutes remaining and had possession of the ball.

The Explorers (3-12, 1-2 A-10) committed a turnover and then the Billikens (12-4, 3-0) closed out with 7-1 run to post their fourth straight win.

Senior Jevon Best scored five of his 11 in the final minutes.

Hasahn French, left, of Saint Louis comes from behind to block a shot by David Beatty of La Salle in the 2nd half on Jan. 12, 2019.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Hasahn French, left, of Saint Louis comes from behind to block a shot by David Beatty of La Salle in the 2nd half on Jan. 12, 2019.

“That’s what happens when you play a veteran team that has been through this before,” Howard said. “St. Louis has been there before and played like it.

“We’re a team that is just scratching the surface of how good we can be and we played like it. We’re scratching. We’re almost right there, but we haven’t gotten there yet.

“The guys are playing with a lot effort so I’m proud of that. I think we’re getting better. It’s always disappointing to lose but a lot of teachable moments that we can use from this game.”

Coach Ashley Howard, center, of La Salle questions and official’s call in the 2nd half on Jan. 12, 2019. He felt the ball had gone off of Saint Louis.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Coach Ashley Howard, center, of La Salle questions and official’s call in the 2nd half on Jan. 12, 2019. He felt the ball had gone off of Saint Louis.

The Explorers got a game-high 14 points each from junior Isiah Deas and freshman Jack Clark. Graduate student Pookie Powell had 12 points and three assists.

La Salle was without sophomore center Miles Brookins, who was injured in the previous game against Virginia Commonwealth.

St. Louis graduate student transfer Tramaine Isabell, Jr., who played last season at Drexel, scored eight points.

Isiah Dees of La Salle tries to score throw the arms of St. Louis defenders in the 2nd half on Jan. 12, 2019.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Isiah Dees of La Salle tries to score throw the arms of St. Louis defenders in the 2nd half on Jan. 12, 2019.