WHO: Saint Joseph’s Hawks (0-1) at Drexel Dragons (0-1)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Daskalakis Athletic Center – Philadelphia, Pa.
RADIO: Sports Radio 610 WIP
By JAMES HILL
Phil Martelli’s message was clear Friday night: “We have to take it on our chest like big boys here.”
Very little went right for Martelli’s Hawks on opening night, where it seemed Saint Joseph’s was lucky to even have a chance to win it in the final seconds. Fairleigh Dickinson’s Mustafaa Jones dashed any chance of that with his dagger of a three-pointer in front of his bench with about three seconds to go, sending his Knights to a 58-57 win.
“We fought it offensively,” Martelli explained following Friday’s game. “We knew that that was coming…. We have to get better tomorrow and not have this define our year.”
The Hawks struggled offensively all night, missing jumper after jumper as Fairleigh Dickinson sat back in a 2-3 zone defense. St. Joe’s made only 5 three-pointers on 20 attempts and finished 40 percent from the floor. St. Joe’s captains and leaders Chris Wilson (12 points) and DeAndre Bembry (8 points) combined to go 8-for-23 on the night.
But it wasn’t only the poor shooting that did the Hawks in. After all, the Hawks dominated on the glass by a count of 44-28 and Fairleigh Dickinson shot only 39 percent themselves. Turnovers made matters worse.
St. Joe’s coughed the ball up 16 times on the night – 10 of which were in the first half. Seven St. Joe’s players turned the ball over at least twice and only one player, Javon Baumann, played a turnover-free game. Fairleigh Dickinson, who forced many of those Hawk turnovers to the tune of 10 steals, only had seven giveaways on the night.
“We didn’t do a very good job of loose ball recovery,” the coach said. “Balls broke loose, and we didn’t get enough of those loose balls.”
Drexel enters the game following some offensive woes of its own. The Dragons managed only 48 points on 29 percent shooting in their opener at Colorado. Preseason All-Colonial Athletic Association selections Damion Lee (First Team) and Tavon Allen (Honorable Mention) struggled to find their strokes in the game, combining to go 9-for-31 from the floor, including 5-for-19 from range.
But the Dragons have won nine of their last 10 home openers, and will likely come out energized with a rocking DAC crowd behind them. Friday’s game showed the Hawks exactly where they must improve to compete in these types of games.
“We know that these are the types of games we’re going to be in,” Martelli said of the loss. “We know a number of points that we could get. The turnovers are a concern; we have to break them down and not repeat them on Monday night.”
Martelli did allow himself to admit that the fact that Friday was a season-opener explains some of the mistakes. He relied heavily on two freshmen making their debuts, James Demery and Shavar Newkirk, as part of his supporting cast. While the pair of rookies showed flashes – the pair combined for eight points while Newkirk dished out four assists – they accounted for five of the Hawks’ turnovers.
“I expect a little more,” Martelli explained. “I don’t really look at them as freshmen in their first game. We’ve been practicing with them for six weeks. We should have them prepared for every situation. They’ll get better from having had this experience.”
Scouting Saint Joseph’s: Isaiah Miles’ 14 rebounds Friday night was not only a career high, it more than doubled his previous career high. Prior to this season, the most rebounds he had snared in a game was six in a game against Binghamton last season…. The loss to Fairleigh Dickinson was St. Joe’s first in a season opener since the 2010-11 season, where the Hawks were blasted by Western Kentucky 98-70 at Hagan Arena…. Sophomore center Javon Baumann set career highs for rebounds (8) and blocks (3) in the loss to Fairleigh Dickinson…. St. Joe’s has beaten Drexel three times in a row, dating back to the 2010-11 season. Last season, the Hawks won 75-55 at Hagan Arena behind a 27-point, 14-rebound effort by Halil Kanacevic.
Scouting Drexel: The Dragons limped to a 16-14 mark last year, losing several players to injury and failing to make any postseason tournament…. Drexel was picked to finish 4th in the Colonial Athletic Association this season…. The injury bug has hit Drexel for a second straight season. The Dragons lost two projected starters to injuries in the offseason. In April, senior forward Kazembe Abif tore his ACL, and in late October, sophomore guard Major Canady sustained an ankle injury…. Drexel’s loss to Colorado was their third straight defeat in a season-opener.
Sound Off: What must the Hawks do to rebound from the disappointing loss?
James Hill covers Saint Joseph’s basketball for Philahoops. Find him on Twitter @jrhill17 or leave a comment below.