Shavar Newkirk's heroics lead St. Joe's past City 6 rival Drexel

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Shavar Newkirk's heroics lead St. Joe's past City 6 rival Drexel


As a point guard whose game revolves around driving to the hoop and getting to the foul line, Shavar Newkirk has experience making all kinds of different free throws.

Game-winners. Swishes. Even ones that have no business going in.

So when the Saint Joseph’s junior stepped to the line with Sunday’s game against Drexel tied at 71-71 with 10.7 seconds left, he didn’t feel much pressure. He didn’t pay attention to the Dragons fans’ waving their arms like crazy behind the basket. And he didn’t worry when his shot bounced high off the rim ... before eventually dropping through and sending St. Joe’s to a 72-71 victory over its city rival at the refurbished Daskalakis Athletic Center (see Instant Replay).

“Shooter’s touch,” he said, flashing a smile.

Newkirk certainly had the touch Sunday night — and without it, the Hawks (4-4) would have almost certainly lost to Drexel (4-5) for the first time in six tries.

For the game, he made 10 of the 13 two-point shots he attempted, including his team’s first one and a buzzer-beater before halftime that helped St. Joe’s stay within striking distance despite getting outplayed in the first half. He shot 7 of 10 from the free-throw line with all seven of those makes coming in the second half and six in the final seven minutes when the two teams traded leads. And, most impressively, he scored his team’s final 11 points, capped by an acrobatic driving layup while getting fouled — the pivotal play that preceded his game-winning free throw.

“I saw that we needed a spark,” Newkirk said. “Brendan Casper did a good job in the first half. And I felt, as a leader of the team, I could provide that.”

St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli was certainly pleased with his team’s leaders as Casper, a senior, scored 10 points and Javon Baumann, another senior, came through with a critical block on Drexel’s final offensive possession to help seal the win. And he liked that Newkirk and fellow point guard Lamarr Kimble (16 points) came through when it mattered most and helped the team overcame a dreadful 3-for-18 shooting night from behind the arc and snap a four-game losing skid.

But when asked if he was proud of his team’s resiliency in overcoming an 11-point second-half deficit, he instead lamented about the lack of urgency in some of the Hawks’ young players.

“No, not really,” Martelli said. “I’m happy for them because this is a tough time going into exams. But some of our young guys are still back at Hagan [Arena]. They didn’t even make the trip. That’s not going to be nearly good enough facing what we have to face.”

Like St. Joe’s, Drexel got big-time performances from its top players as senior forward Rodney Williams had a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds and lightning-quick freshman point guard Kurk Lee had 16 points and six assists.

Williams, who’s suffered through two straight rough seasons, looked like he had a spring in his step while playing under a new point guard in Lee and a new head coach in Zach Spiker, dominating the paint and making one especially pretty scooping layup in the first half.

But when the game ended and he missed out on a golden opportunity to beat St. Joe’s for the first time, Williams looked understandably distraught.

“That’s what Rodney’s capable of,” Spiker said of his senior’s 29-point game. “We need that more often than not. Rodney is one of our featured players. Tonight he did a lot of good things. As I told the guys in the locker room, though, I don’t think anyone should feel good that we played St. Joe’s a little close because we’re shorthanded. Everyone could have made one or two more plays. That’s what’s sickening to us.”

Spiker admitted that the team’s depth, coupled with foul trouble, was an issue as starting guard Miles Overton missed the game with a lower-leg injury. But he believes that giving a lot of guys experience in this kind of a “dogfight” vs. a Philly team will be beneficial in the long run.

“This feeling sucks,” Spiker said. “But we’ll be a better team in March because of this game.”

Despite coming out of the win, Martelli found less reason for optimism than his coaching counterpart. If anything, he thinks his team relying on Newkirk and Kimble as much as it did should be a wake-up call as Atlantic 10 play approaches.

“If they don’t score, we’re back to the rock ages,” the St. Joe’s coach said. “We’re scoring 42 points, we’re not gonna beat anybody.

“Shavar saw what was needed and did what he had to do. But we need balance. When we play up leagues, we can’t ride them. They need to be part of a picture that right now is incomplete.”

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

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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