Newkirk, Kimble lead St. Joe's to season-opening win

Newkirk, Kimble lead St. Joe's to season-opening win


Before its season opener, Saint Joseph’s celebrated its past.

Turns out, the Hawks’ future could be pretty good too.

Led by a career-high 28 points from junior Shavar Newkirk — one of only three returning regulars from last year’s Atlantic 10 championship squad — St. Joe’s earned a 77-76 win over Toledo to kick off its 2016-17 campaign Saturday night at Hagan Arena.

Lamarr Kimble and James Demery, the other two returners, added 16 and 11 points, respectively. Kimble’s 16 was also a career high as the Hawks look to find new stars to keep their program on top.

“College is about waiting your turn,” Newkirk said. “We basically waited our turn. We’re ready for it.” 

The backcourt partnership between Newkirk and Kimble was perhaps the most promising development of Saturday’s opener. Because they’re both natural point guards, the two rarely played on the court at the same time last season, instead splitting time evenly.

But knowing he needed to rely on them both, Martelli decided over the summer the two would start together — and they rewarded that decision with a combined 44 points, six assists and nine rebounds in the opener. They also combined to shoot a healthy 15 for 28 from the floor.

“When I know I have another point guard on the floor, it relieves pressure off me,” Newkirk said. “I don’t have to run the team as much.”

“We’re like brothers out there,” Kimble added. “It definitely was good playing with him. I picked my spots off him and he had it going.”

Earlier in the night, Kimble hugged the A-10 championship trophy as St. Joe’s commemorated the 2015-16 campaign in which the Hawks won 28 games, including victories in the Atlantic 10 championship over VCU and a first-round NCAA Tournament contest over Cincinnati. 

A championship banner was also unveiled and a highlights video was shown, before three departed players from last year’s team — Aaron Brown, Papa Ndao and Kyle Molock — posed for a photo with the official game ball. DeAndre' Bembry and Isaiah Miles, the two stars of the team now playing professionally, both made video messages that were played during the first half.

“It was nice to see another banner hanging up there,” head coach Phil Martelli said, “and now getting to work on hopefully getting another one.”

The loss of Bembry, Miles, Brown and Ndao — who accounted for 65 percent of their scoring last year — was felt early on as this year’s young Hawks squad fell behind by eight a little more than five minutes into the contest.

But the Hawks got the crowd roaring right before halftime on a three-pointer from promising freshman Charlie Brown followed by a game-tying, coast-to-coast dunk from Demery. 

The Rockets ended up taking a 41-40 lead into halftime, spurred by 46.4 percent shooting. But Newkirk began to take over in the second half, scoring seven straight points for his team to put St. Joe’s up 55-54. Kimble followed with an acrobatic three-point play with 11:16 left to give the Hawks a four-point lead — their biggest of the night until the final minute.

“We’re definitely maturing fast as a team,” Kimble said. “We’ve got a lot of young players but you definitely saw that we took some punches and we were able to keep grinding the game down.”

St. Joe’s couldn’t stretch its advantage as the two teams traded leads the rest of the way — remarkably, there were 25 total lead changes in the second half — but went up for good on a Markell Lodge bucket with 1:42 left. A clutch Newkirk jumper gave the Hawks a 74-71 lead with 46.7 seconds left and, after a big defensive stop, two Newkirk free throws with 25.4 seconds remaining helped ice the win. 

“I felt like in an odd way this was a really enjoyable game to be a part of because the lead was changing, we had to make some calls, we had to make some adjustments,” said Martelli, who began his 22nd season at the Hawks’ helm. “I like that. I’m fine with it.”

What turned out to be the difference in the final two minutes as St. Joe’s finally stopped the seesaw and pulled away, with Toledo only pulling back to within one with a meaningless three at the buzzer?

“Having two point guards on the floor,” Newkirk responded simply.

And now the Hawks hope their new backcourt will continue to grow when St. Joe’s returns to action Monday with a home game vs. Columbia before flying out to St. Thomas for the Paradise Jam.

“It’s a long season,” Newkirk said. “We have to come back Monday and do it again.”

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