GUAYNABO, Puerto Rico - La Salle left Puerto Rico with two losses but also with a new outlook on its potential for the season.
The Explorers made several comebacks yesterday but lost to DePaul, 93-88, at the Mario Morales Coliseum in their final game of the San Juan Shootout, proving to themselves that they know how to fight.
"I was very disappointed with our performance and our record before we came to Puerto Rico," coach John Giannini said. "I really didn't know how we were going to do against the competition.
"Our kids showed me that they can play teams from good conferences down to the wire. We really didn't know that until this trip."
La Salle (4-6) lost a close battle to undefeated Mississippi on Friday night and beat Puerto Rico-Mayaguez on Wednesday.
The Explorers gnawed at the heels of the Rebels and the Blue Demons, but their efforts fell short in both games.
Against DePaul (3-7), the Explorers erased a 16-point deficit to take a 70-68 lead with nine minutes remaining.
Darnell Harris led La Salle by connecting on 8 of 11 field-goal attempts, including 5 of 7 three-pointers, for 21 points.
The Blue Demons switched from their 2-3 zone defense to a box-and-one on Harris, who scored only two points in the final nine minutes.
"That's something we never saw this year," Giannini said. "It's not easy to play against, and it definitely took us out of our rhythm. They took a seven-point lead until we started scoring against it. It was a good move on their part."
The Explorers trailed, 89-86, with 12 seconds remaining, but the Blue Demons converted their final four free throws after struggling from the line throughout the game.
Giannini pointed to a critical stretch at the beginning of the second half, when DePaul made its first five shots and the Explorers continued to miss layups.
DePaul extended a 50-45 halftime lead to a 62-54 advantage in the first four minutes of the second half.
"From that point forward, our play was as good as DePaul's," Giannini said. "We dug ourselves a hole."
The Explorers gained more than a suntan in San Juan. They also learned about their ability to fight for a victory.
"We're disappointed but not discouraged," Giannini said.