PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s the season opener for the La Salle University men’s basketball team tonight, as they welcome Lafayette, out of the Patriot League, to Gola Arena.

The Explorers went 15-18 during the 2010-2011 campaign.  Head coach Dr. John Giannini is looking forward to improving that ledger this season.

“I think we’ve had a tremendous offseason, and it has been an enjoyable one,” he tells KYW Newsradio.   “The guys have worked hard and it is a motivated group.  They are very coachable, we took a summer tour to Canada; we do have a young team so this was the perfect time to do it.  We’ve had scrimmages and exhibition games that have really tested us.  The guys have worked hard at practice, so it is time to get started.”

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Giannini has to make up for the loss of his top three scorers from a season ago, but he says he has a lot of guys that are ready to step up.

“I think we are very deep.  I think we can play nine, ten guys, and of course some guys had valuable experience last year.  (Sophomore guard) Tyreek Duren [in photo], I think, is poised for a great year and (ready) to become one of the best point guards in the Atlantic 10.  (Sophomore guard) Sam Mills is one of the most improved players in our program, he has been shooting the ball really, really well all offseason, and I think he is a much improved offensive player.  (Senior guard) Earl (Pettis) is a veteran player, we are expecting really good things from Earl in his senior year.”

Lafayette went 13-19 a season ago, but Giannini says the Leopards definitely have their attention.

“They are a great shooting team who are wonderfully coached offensively.  They move well, they pass well, they hunt open shots.  And I’m telling you, everyone on their team can make a three.  So they are going to be really hard to defend.  They have good team size so it’s a great opener for us and a great challenge.”

Tipoff for La Salle and Lafayette is set for 7:00pm tonight at Gola Arena.

Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060

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