Frustrations grow for Phil Martelli, St. Joe's in 9th straight loss

Frustrations grow for Phil Martelli, St. Joe's in 9th straight loss


St. Joe's could not solve Rhode Island's high-intensity defense Wednesday night, falling, 68-49, at Hagan Arena (see Instant Replay).

Before the first media timeout, the Hawks already had four turnovers. Even coach Phil Martelli can admit it comes down to skill and depth -- both areas the Hawks lack in.

"We came out and turned the ball over," Martelli said. "That's not sluggish, that's skill. We turned the ball over four times by the first media timeout. It has nothing to do with being sluggish, it has everything to do with the skill of running, passing and dribbling the ball.

"I'm not killing anybody, but on the first play of the game, our guy dribbled the ball off his foot into the backcourt. We threw at least three passes into the crowd."

St. Joe's finished with 13 turnovers.

Its troubles began in the first half as it fell behind, 36-20, thanks to a 12-2 run by the Rams late in the stanza. The Hawks never held a lead in the game. 

"They're a great defensive team," Brendan Casper said. "They pressure the ball, they overplay the wings and they make it difficult for you to get into an offense. I think we struggled with that today. We couldn't initiate the first pass and we were slow. We couldn't get the ball out on the break, I don't know how many fast-break points we had but I feel like we were slow in the break.

"So credit to them for a great defense, but also we didn't run offense. We missed foul shots. When we got looks, they didn't always drop, but they're one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10."

Casper started for Nick Robinson, who played only eight minutes because of a foot injury. The fourth different starting point guard for the Hawks was right about St. Joe's being lost at the free throw line, where it went 9 for 20 (45 percent).

However, it wasn't just the charity stripe. The Hawks struggled in the paint, an area they were outscored, 34-20, while the bench was outscored, 27-9. St. Joe's also shot just 2 for 9 from beyond the arc.

This is the ninth straight loss for the Hawks. They have not lost that many in a row since January 2011.

"I find the closest brick wall and run straight into it," Martelli said. "As many times as I can. Because that's what I'm doing, that's what it feels like. All I can do it ask them to fill up their tank, and to show up.

"All I can do is come up with a plan. Tonight's plan: zone. We played one possession of man-to-man. And people will say, 'You just waved the white flag.' Well, give me an option here. What if we had foul trouble? We would have been down to volunteers to play, so we couldn't afford foul trouble."

Martelli has been without his starting point guard Lamarr Kimble, who injured his foot on Feb. 11 against UMass, and leading scorer Shavar Newkirk, who tore his ACL earlier this season.

Freshman Charlie Brown still believes in his point guards not named Kimble.

"We have Nick and Brendan, who get our offense started," Brown. "When it comes down to it, we need to be scoring more."

With a pair of triples Wednesday, Brown set the Hawks' freshman record for threes in a season at 66. He hit his first one two minutes into the contest and waited until there were 45 seconds left in the game to enter the record books.

"It's a great feeling," Brown said. "I thank my teammates, first of all. They allow me to get open and take my shots and I really thank them for that."

Records aside, this was still another Hawks loss because of a young team with players that have not fully matured yet.

"Call it the way it is," Martelli said. "That was participation. That wasn't a competition.

"I think they gave me what they have, it's just their games are light. Team with the better players won and team with the more manly players won."

Prior to the start of the game, Casper and Javon Baumann were honored for senior night.

Martelli spoke highly of each and mentioned they have contributed to rich history of St. Joe's basketball.

"They have two [A-10] championships," Martelli said. "They have two championships in four years and Javon already graduated in 3½ years. Brendan is a remarkable athletic honor-roll student. They are leaving as champions. They get a tattoo for this [season's] record, too, but they have two Atlantic 10 rings. Job well done."

Casper left the game to a thunderous applause late in the second half.

"There are definitely a lot of emotions in your last home game," Casper said. "Especially getting the start at point guard … you want to go out and play well in your last game."

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

No surprises on the Main Line and well, the Quakers have quite the hill to climb to advance.

Villanova on Sunday night was awarded the 1-seed in the East Region and will face the winner of the LIU Brooklyn/Radford game Thursday in Pittsburgh. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:50 p.m. on TNT.

The Wildcats have been a top-two seed since 2014 and it's the second straight year they're a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed in last year's tournament.

Penn was named the 16th seed in the Midwest Region and will face the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks on Thursday at 2 p.m. on TBS in Wichita, Kansas.

Steve Donahue has the Quakers back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 in his third season as Penn's head coach.

The Quakers are 24-8 and this will be their 24th-ever appearance in the tournament.

'Nova survived a scare from Providence on Saturday night to win its second straight Big East title and its third in the past four years.

If the Wildcats beat LIU Brooklyn/Radford, they'll face the winner of the No. 8-seeded Virginia Tech and No. 9 seed Alabama. Purdue is the No. 2 seed in the East.

Also in the East are No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 4 Wichita State.

Penn aims to end 11-year drought this weekend

USA Today Images

Penn aims to end 11-year drought this weekend

NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and senior producer Sean Kane get you set for all the weekend's local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. With the regular season ending this weekend, this will be the final Fastbreak Friday column of the season.

Temple (16-13, 8-9 AAC) at Tulsa (18-11, 11-6 AAC), Sunday at 3 p.m.
 It’s been a rough season for the Temple Owls. Yes, there was that win over ranked Wichita State in the middle of a 5-game win streak. But after the stumbles down the stretch, that seems like a distant memory. 

Of course, the bad can be washed away with an AAC tournament run, but first, the Owls need to close out on the road against Tulsa. 

Given their track record on the road, things don’t line up well for Fran Dunphy’s crew. Plus, it’s dollar dog, dollar soda and dollar popcorn night at Tulsa. That’s a delicious trifecta. 

But there is still some fight in this team. Quintin Rose and Shizz Alston have been everything the Owls have needed, and throw in Nate Pierre-Louis and you have a nice core back for next season.

Temple 71,  Tulsa 70

Pennsylvania (21-7, 11-1 Ivy) at Yale (14-14, 7-5 Ivy), Friday at 7 p.m.
Pennsylvania (21-7, 11-1 Ivy) at Brown (11-14, 4-8 Ivy), Saturday at 6 p.m.
Penn enters the final weekend of the regular season in control of its own destiny. If the Quakers beat Yale and Brown on the road they'll win their first Ivy League championship since 2007 and earn the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which will be played at the Palestra next weekend. It all adds up to Penn having the inside track to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years.

This seems like an appropriate time to salute the job done by head coach Steve Donahue. In just his third season at Penn, he has the Quakers poised to reclaim top billing in the Ivy League. He inherited a team that finished 9-19 in the 2014-2015 season and promptly began a swift rebuilding project. Penn went 11-17 in Donahue's first season, 13-14 in his second year, and now stand at 21-7 overall and 11-1 in conference play. Look for those winning ways to continue this weekend and for Donahue and company to do some celebrating.

Penn 73, Yale 66
Penn 69, Brown 60

La Salle (13-17, 7-10 A-10) at St. Joseph's (14-15, 9-8 A-10), Saturday at 2 p.m.
La Salle and St. Joe's will each try to keep the good times rolling heading into next week's A-10 Tournament. La Salle has won three of its last four games, including a convincing 18-point win over Dayton earlier this week. St. Joseph's meanwhile has a 5-1 record in its last six games and just recorded arguably one of the most stunning victories of this college basketball season.

The Hawks went on the road and beat No. 18 Rhode Island, 78-48, on Tuesday, spoiling the Rams' senior night in the process. It was the first road win over a ranked team for St. Joseph's since 1979 and it came in shockingly easy fashion. I expect the Hawks to build on that momentum this weekend and avenge a three-point loss to La Salle earlier this season.

St. Joseph's 74, La Salle 68 

Drexel (12-19, 6-12 CAA) at James Madison (10-21, 6-12 CAA), Saturday at 4 p.m. in first round of CAA Tournament
The Dragons' season has been marked with highs and lows. While it may seem like a marginal improvement — with 12 wins to their credit compared to nine last season — they did double their conference win total. 

Also, Drexel beat the top two teams in the CAA this season as well as set an NCAA Division-I record for the largest comeback ever when they erased a 34-point deficit against Delaware. 

But the Dragons did have two separate losing streaks that would cause any coach to lose sleep, one of five straight and the other of four straight losses. 

Drexel begins the quest for its first-ever CAA tournament title against JMU, then Charleston awaits on basically home turf. Go ahead and make it a baker’s dozen, Dragons. 

Drexel 76, JMU 74

Prediction Records
Sean Kane: 30-11
Amy Fadool: 22-21