By ADAM BOOTH
Playing in the Atlantic 10, as well as the Big 5, there are plenty of opportunities for a team to build its resume against some of the top teams in the country. The Saint Joseph’s Hawks had such an opportunity when No. 21 UMass visited Hagan Arena.
The Hawks’ success against ranked opponents recently, well, hasn’t been much success at all.
The monkey is off the back now as Phil Martelli’s team is finally on the winning end of a game like this, defeating UMass 73-68 on Saturday night. But the elder statesman of the Atlantic 10 isn’t satisfied with him team just yet.
“It was a win, and it was gutty. We did what he had to do, but I am worried about my offense,” Martelli said.
The Hawks began the game playing some impressive two-way basketball. Although the Hawks only shot 45 percent in the first half, the team went 5-8 from behind the arc.
On the defensive side they held UMass to only 25 points, and only three of them coming from Minuteman star Chaz Williams.
“In the first half we did a nice job crowding the floor. Then (Williams) got into the cracks in the second half,” said Martelli
Williams scored 13 points in the second half, and helped spark the huge comeback that eventually tied the game, after UMass was down 16 at halftime.
Like many games this season, it was a tale of two halves for SJU. The Hawks’ hot shooting cooled off, and defensive and mental plays became less crisp down the stretch.
“It’s not a good trend,” senior Halil Kanacevic said to Philahoops. “We have to limit teams in the second half, and we definitely have to close.”
The Hawks were outscored by 11 in the second half, and allowed UMass to shoot close to 60 percent in the second half, bringing them all the way back.
“We didn’t put a whole game together,” junior Chris Wilson told Philahoops. “I as the point guard have to play smarter. As a team we have to play smarter.”
This game wasn’t without a bit of controversy. In the second half an excessive amount of calls had both Martelli and UMass coach Derek Kellogg smacking tables and in officials ears.
When Martelli brought up the fifth foul on DeAndre Bembry, his word choice was simple: “It was a joke.”
Saint Joseph’s found itself in a very common position for them. Staring a top-25 team in the face with a chance to improve their resume heading into March. For the first time since last Novembers, they did just that.
Kanacevic led the Hawks with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Ronald Roberts raked in 17 points and six rebounds of his own
Derrick Gordon had 21 points on 10-13 shooting for UMass.
The Hawks will have No. 13 Saint Louis visiting Hagan Arena this week, followed by a date with VCU.