By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The La Salle University basketball team has played good basketball here in the early going of the 2017-18 season. The Explorers are now hopeful that success in North America will follow them to Europe as they get ready to take part in the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic in Northern Ireland.

The Explorers are 4-3 on the young season.

“I’m really pleased with our effort,” La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini tells KYW Newsradio. “I think we’ve played very hard in every game. Like every team, our performance has varied a little bit. But our losses are really against good teams.”

 

Their latest win also came against a good team as the Explorers handed Temple its first loss of the season on Sunday, 87-83. La Salle rallied from 11 points down in the second half to grab the victory at Gola Arena.

“We did a great job,” Giannini says. “[Redshirt junior guard] Pookie Powell and [redshirt senior guard/forward] BJ Johnson made huge shots down the stretch and we got stops when we needed them. We’re obviously ecstatic with a win against a team that we think is very, very strong.”

Johnson (22.1) and Powell (16.4) have been really good this season for the Explorers, the pair combining to average 38.5 points a game.

Now the Explorers head overseas for these games in Northern Ireland. Giannini explains how the opportunity to take part in this event came about.

“There’s a program there called the Victory Scholars, our friend Gareth [Maguire] founded it,” he says. “He’s given post-graduate scholarships to a lot of Philly area student-athletes to go over there and work in the community and go to graduate school and continue to coach and play their sport. It’s really a great program. Gareth has been wanting to run a tournament there and it’s been at least 3 to 4 years in the process of talking about it and putting it together. We’ve talked about it with him from day one. He asked us if we wanted to be involved and we’ve kind of advised him throughout the process about what teams would be looking for [to be involved]. We’re thrilled to go to an incredible place and play the first college basketball games in history there.”

The Explorers will open play in Northern Ireland against a good Towson team on Friday afternoon. The Tigers are 6-1 with a win over another Big 5 team, Penn, to their credit.

“[Towson head coach Pat Skerry] has said this has a chance to be his best team that he’s had there,” Giannini says. “Which is saying a lot because he’s had some 20 win teams. ”

The Explorers will also play either Manhattan or Holy Cross during their visit.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Mattleonkyw.

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