Phil Martelli staying positive despite St. Joe's slump


Phil Martelli staying positive despite St. Joe's slump

As Langston Galloway continues to thrive in the NBA, the college program that the Knicks' guard left behind continues to sputter in his absence.

Most people probably figured Saint Joseph’s would take a step back after Galloway and fellow senior standouts Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic graduated after guiding the Hawks to an Atlantic 10 conference tournament championship and a near-upset over eventual national champion UConn in the NCAA Tournament.

But just how far they’ve fallen — the Hawks have lost seven of their last nine following a 53-48 setback to La Salle on Tuesday — has left head coach Phil Martelli scratching his head and blaming himself.

But he’s not discouraged.

“I’m not frustrated,” Martelli said. “I’m really, really, really not frustrated because it’s a good group of kids. There are just some holes in their game and not enough time to fill all those holes.”

It’s not hard to figure out where the problem areas lie. After graduating a good chunk of their scoring from last year’s team, the Hawks (8-11 overall, 2-5 Atlantic 10) simply haven’t found enough options to replace them.

Sophomore DeAndre' Bembry, who’s averaging a Big 5-leading 17.6 points per game, is a bona fide star and perhaps the best player in the city. But he’s not getting nearly enough help from his teammates, especially late in games.

Tuesday’s contest was the latest example as the Hawks let a 15-point lead slip away, making critical turnovers and not having what Martelli called “good shot conviction” down the stretch.

“We let the other team come and our guys get tight,” Martelli said. “And we end up being really a one-man band. And that’s my fault.”

To be fair, Isaiah Miles is having a nice season, averaging 10.5 points per game after serving as a role player on last year’s team. But even with Miles, Martelli lamented that the junior forward didn’t recognize a layup attempt late in Tuesday’s game, instead throwing the ball backwards at a critical juncture.

“Isaiah’s play at the end there, he hasn’t been coached well enough,” Martelli said. “We have to do a better job for him.”

If players aren’t coached well enough, it isn’t for lack of trying. Because this year’s team is so young and inexperienced, Martelli said the playbook is “three times bigger than it’s ever been.” And the players are eager to learn it.

“We’ve got to coach for everything,” he said. “I hate coaching like this. But it gives them a chance. They show up every day, apologizing and saying, ‘Coach, that was my fault.’ Yeah, guess what? I’m OK with that. I don’t need to know whose fault it is. It’s my fault. I need to do better for us.”

The only way for the Hawks to improve is for them to find a way to put the ball in the basket. St. Joe's scored just 52 and 48 points, respectively, in its last two losses — both to Big 5 opponents — and currently rank 312th in Division I in scoring (61.2 ppg) and 292nd in field goal percentage (40.4).

Martelli knew before the season that the Hawks would struggle shooting from long-range after losing a prolific sharpshooter like Galloway. What bothers him more is that the team is missing shots from inside the arc.

“There’s nothing to be done,” Martelli said of the three-point shooting. “We’ll go lock them in the gym and shoot 500 tonight. What’s the difference? The numbers are gonna be the numbers. It’s the two-point shooting that is of concern. Guys have to finish layups, and we’re not doing enough of that.”

Villanova stays at No. 5 in AP poll; Temple receives votes

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Villanova stays at No. 5 in AP poll; Temple receives votes

A week where Villanova barely had to break a sweat has Jay Wright and his Wildcats holding steady in the latest AP poll.

After making quick work of Nicholls St. on Tuesday and then Lafayette Friday evening in Allentown, the 'Cats are the No. 5 team in the land for the second straight week. They moved up from No. 6 last week after leapfrogging now-No.8 Kentucky.

There's an excellent chance things are going to get much trickier for the Wildcats this week as they head to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which starts Wednesday vs. Western Kentucky. But a potential second-round matchup with No. 18 Purdue looms Thursday, as does a potential championship showdown of titanic proportions with No. 2 Arizona on Friday.

But the 'Cats aren't the only team with some AP poll notoriety this week.

Fran Dunphy's 3-0 Temple team received four votes this week after capturing the Charleston Classic crown. The Owls earned the honors with victories over Old Dominion, Auburn and Clemson.

The Owls next game is their first of the season in the Big 5 as they'll travel to Olney to face La Salle on Sunday. The Owls and Wildcats will meet in North Philly on Dec. 13.

Duke was again No. 1 in this week's poll. Arizona leaped to No. 2, Kansas held its ground at No. 3 and Michigan State slipped to No. 4 before Villanova rounded out the top 5. 

Tons at stake as Temple hosts unbeaten UCF; Penn, Villanova wrap up

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Tons at stake as Temple hosts unbeaten UCF; Penn, Villanova wrap up

Temple (5-5, 3-3 AAC) vs. No. 15 UCF (9-0, 6-0 AAC)
Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, noon, ESPNU

Last time out
Temple beat Cincinnati, 35-24, last Friday.

UCF beat UConn, 49-24, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Both teams have a lot at stake in Saturday’s game. An Owls win would make them bowl eligible and give them a victory against a high-ranked opponent, which would certainly help when it comes time for bowl selection. On the other hand, UCF will look to preserve its perfect season and stay atop the AAC's East Division with a crucial matchup against 8-1 South Florida looming.

Frank Nutile, who will make his fourth consecutive start at quarterback, has sparked Temple’s offense. Since he stepped in, he has completed 61 of 89 passes for 803 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions, and led the Owls to two wins. He will need to continue his stellar play for Temple to beat UCF, which boasts the second-best total and scoring defense in the AAC, allowing 371 yards per game and 20.7 points per game.

The Knights also have the best total offense in the conference, putting up 538 yards per game and 48.6 points per game, which is more than six points better than the second-best team. The Owls must keep UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton (2,720 yards, 22 touchdowns, five interceptions) and the Knights' rushing attack, which averages 210.2 yards per game, in check if they want a chance at the upset.

Series history
The series is tied at 2-2 and Temple has won the past two matchups, including a 26-25 come-from-behind win last year.

What's next?
Temple travels to play Tulsa next Saturday.

UCF hosts No. 23 South Florida on Friday night.

Penn (5-4, 3-3 Ivy) vs. Cornell (3-6, 3-3 Ivy)
Franklin Field
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

Last time out
Penn defeated Harvard, 23-6, last Saturday.

Cornell lost to Columbia, 18-8, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Penn has won its last three Ivy League contests and has gained a lot of momentum after losing its first three Ivy League games this season. Cornell shouldn’t pose much of a challenge to the Quakers since the Big Red are second worst in the conference in scoring offense, total offense and pass efficiency. The Quakers’ strength is their rushing attack, as they average 192 yards per game on the ground. Cornell’s rush defense is sixth in the conference, so look for the Quakers to take advantage of this matchup.

Series history
This is the 124th meeting between the teams. The Quakers hold a 72-46-5 advantage and won, 42-20, last season. 

What's next?
This is the final game of the season for both teams.

Villanova (4-6, 2-5 CAA) vs. Delaware (7-3, 5-2 CAA)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pennsylvania 
Saturday, 1 p.m.

Last time out
Villanova lost to Rhode Island, 20-6, last Saturday.

Delaware beat Albany, 22-3, last Saturday.

Scouting report
What stands out about this regular-season finale are the defenses for Delaware and Villanova. Delaware’s scoring defense is second to James Madison as the Blue Hens allow just 15.7 points per game. The Wildcats’ specialty on the defensive side of the football is their run defense. Villanova allows only 72 yards per game on the ground and will look to slow down a Delaware rushing attack that averages 200 yards per game. Also to note, the Blue Hens come in fighting for a berth in the FCS playoffs.

Series history
Villanova leads the series 28-21-1. The Wildcats won, 41-10, last season.

What's next?
This is the regular-season finale for both Villanova and Delaware. For the second time in the last three seasons, the Wildcats won't make the FCS playoffs.