La Salle routs shorthanded St. Joe's for 1st Big 5 win in 2 years

USA Today Images

La Salle routs shorthanded St. Joe's for 1st Big 5 win in 2 years


Good grief.

Saint Joseph’s freshman guard Charlie Brown started the game 0 for 8 from the field, tossing up contested shot after shot, even airballing twice.
Even poor Snoopy wasn’t spared.
“Charlie Brown is having a wonderful year,” St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli said. “When he misses a shot, any shot … I don’t know if he owns a dog, but if he does own a dog, that dog died 10 times in the first half.
“Every shot. Drops his head, misses his assignment at the other end. You gotta grow up.”
As Brown took his seat on the bench midway through the first half, the La Salle band taunted his effort with the Peanuts’ theme song.
The rout was on.
La Salle raced out to an early lead and didn’t look back, pummeling St. Joe’s, 83-68, Saturday at Tom Gola Arena for its first Big 5 win in two years (see Instant Replay).
Brown wasn’t the only Hawk to feel Martelli’s wrath, though.
“We have to get emotionally older in a hurry,” Martelli said. “Because they’re nice, young guys who are immature.“
With veteran leaders and the team’s two leading scorers Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble out for the year, Martelli elected to start a young lineup — freshmen Brown and Nick Robinson, sophomores Chris Clover and Markell Lodge and junior James Demery.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with age, at this point,” Martelli said.
“The healthier team won today,” La Salle head coach John Giannini said.
While age isn’t the problem, Martelli cited that, in what has become a lost year of sorts, he wants to see his young players mature on and off the court.
“We had a player get a slight concussion yesterday,” Martelli said. “One of his teammates threw the ball off his face. It’s impossible.
“I reach out to the kid last night and say, ‘Are you all right, have you been able to eat, do you have an upset stomach? Call me tomorrow at 11:30, that’s when I write up my pregame notes.’
“11:30 no call, 11:40 no call. So I text him. I go, ‘I guess you’re out?’
“How hard is it?”
Martelli’s Hawks responded with some maturity in the second half.
Down by 27, St. Joe’s amassed an 18-2 run to cut the lead to 11. In the end, La Salle’s lights-out shooting and stifling defense prevailed.
“We played well,” Giannini said of the game as a whole. “Our defense wasn’t great the last 10 minutes, but other than that, I was pleased with everything else.”
“It’s just numbers,” Martelli said of the reason St. Joe’s was dominated. “It has nothing to do with anything else."
And those numbers were not pretty for Martelli’s squad.
The Explorers built their lead with the long ball, making 12 threes and shooting 41 percent from behind the arc. The Hawks made just two of 11 from deep.
La Salle put up 44 puts in the first half. St. Joe’s managed just 26.
The game was a microcosm of the season for both teams, each heading in different directions just two weeks away from the Atlantic-10 tournament.
Ravaged by injury this season, St. Joe’s is fading fast, having lost six straight games and 11 of its last 14. So what is there left to play for with the team in freefall?
“We keep going,” Martelli said. “I’m not collecting uniforms yet.
“We had to walk in here like big boys, and we got to walk out like big boys. It’s the cards that we have and we gotta play the hand.
“We’re going to show up and we’re going to play again on Wednesday. And no one should feel sorry for us. We gotta be better.”
La Salle, on the other hand, is getting healthy at the right time. B.J. Johnson, the team’s leading scorer with 18 points per game, and redshirt sophomore guard Pookie Powell have returned from injury just in time to make a charge up the A-10 standings.
The Explorers currently sit in a three-way tie for fifth in the conference with the top four teams getting two-round byes.
“That’s still two weeks away,” Giannini said of his team’s A-10 positioning. "The seeding’s important.”
With four games left in the regular season — all vs. A-10 foes — Giannini and the Explorers stress the importance of not getting caught looking ahead.
“I’d really hate to be boring, but it’s really about the next game, and your seeding,” Giannini said.
“You look at the standings and what you have to do in the next game. And then after that, you do the process over again."
La Salle hosts Rhode Island, who currently hold the third-seed in the A-10, Tuesday.
“Rhode Island is a heck of a challenge,” Giannini said. “It’s going to be a real battle Tuesday night.”

Penn State holds off Marquette to reach NIT semifinals

USA Today Images

Penn State holds off Marquette to reach NIT semifinals


MILWAUKEE -- Lamar Stevens tied his career high with 30 points, Tony Carr added 25 and Penn State beat Marquette 85-80 on Tuesday night to advance to the NIT semifinals.

The Nittany Lions (24-13) will face Mississippi State (25-11) at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 27. They advanced to the NIT semis for the first time since winning the 2009 tournament.

Stevens hit three crucial buckets in the final three minutes, including a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Josh Reaves for an eight-point lead with one minute left. The 6-foot-8 Stevens then maneuvered through a couple Marquette players to secure a rebound off Andrew Rowsey's missed 3 with 46 seconds left.

Carr went 5 of 8 from the foul line over the final 30 seconds to give Marquette another chance. Rowsey hit a 3 and a layup to get the Golden Eagles as close as 83-80 with six seconds left before the Golden Eagles ran out of time.

Shep Garner scored 19 points and set two Penn State records, including most 3s in a season (112). Garner's 73 career wins are the most in a four-year span since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1992-93.

Rowsey, a senior, scored 29 points for Marquette (21-14).

The Golden Eagles had whittled a 14-point deficit early in the second half to 72-68 with 2:39 left on three foul shots by Rowsey. Penn State went nearly three minutes without a bucket and got sloppy with the ball and the sharpshooting Golden Eagles started hitting 3s to get back in the 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.