St. Joe's downs Sacramento State to place 7th in Wooden Legacy

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St. Joe's downs Sacramento State to place 7th in Wooden Legacy

BOX SCORE

FULLERTON, Calif. -- Shavar Newkirk scored 22 points and freshman Taylor Funk scored five points to break a late tie and Saint Joseph's overcame poor shooting to down Sacramento State 74-69 on Sunday for seventh place in the Wooden Legacy.

Newkirk made 11 of 14 free throws and Funk scored all of his 15 points after halftime when Saint Joseph's (3-3) battled back after Sacramento State (1-6) had shot out to a 52-40 lead. James Demery also scored 15 for the Hawks, who have played all six games on the road, and Lorenzo Edwards scored 10 with nine rebounds. Saint Joseph's scored 27 points off 17 Sac State turnovers.

Justin Strings and Joshua Patton led Sacramento State with 20 and 15 points, respectively. Izayah Mauriohoohoo-Le'Afa added nine rebounds, six assists and seven points for the Hornets.

The contest was one of wild swings, with Saint Joseph's holding an 11-point lead early in the first half and Sacramento State up 12 midway through the second.

Fastbreak Friday: Villanova goes for Battle 4 Atlantis championship

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Fastbreak Friday: Villanova goes for Battle 4 Atlantis championship

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. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season.

No. 5 Villanova (5-0) vs. Northern Iowa (5-1), Friday 12:00 p.m. in Battle 4 Atlantis Championship 
SK:
Villanova has done its part in a tournament that’s been unpredictable from the outset. The Wildcats used a strong second-half performance in each of their wins to this point in the Battle 4 Atlantis — pulling away for a 66-58 victory over Western Kentucky on Wednesday before overcoming a 12-point halftime deficit Thursday against Tennessee.

Meanwhile the other ranked teams in the field — No. 2 Arizona and No. 18 Purdue — have each yet to win a game in the tournament and will meet Friday night in the seventh-place game. So rather than a much anticipated top-5 showdown against Arizona in the championship game, Villanova will face Northern Iowa. 

A win would give the Wildcats their second Battle 4 Atlantis title in the last five years. It would also mark a fifth straight in-season tournament championship for Villanova. They won the Battle 4 Atlantis in 2013, the Legends Classic in 2014, the Preseason NIT in 2015, and the Charleston Classic in 2016.

Things won’t come easy against a Northern Iowa team whose only loss of the season came at No. 9 North Carolina on opening night. The Panthers are a tough, disciplined team that likes to grind it out in the halfcourt. Expect a more deliberate, low-scoring game than the one Villanova played Thursday against Tennessee.

Northern Iowa runs its offense through star big man Bennett Koch, who averages 16 points and seven rebounds per game. UNI already has wins over SMU and NC State in the Battle 4 Atlantis and the Panthers will be eager to add a top-5 win to their resume with a victory over Villanova.

Priority No. 1 for Villanova will be staying out of foul trouble, something they failed to do Thursday against Tennessee. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman all spent extended periods of time on the bench after picking up quick fouls. Brunson and Bridges still managed to be the difference makers — combining for 46 points despite playing just 29 and 23 minutes, respectively.

Look for more of the same from Brunson and Bridges in Friday’s championship game with a little more help from Omari Spellman, who was held to just one field goal Thursday. You should also expect Villanova to come out more focused in the first half after lackluster performances in the first 20 minutes of each of their last two games.

It should translate to another addition to what’s become a crowded Villanova trophy case.

Villanova 68, Northern Iowa 60

Temple (3-0) vs. La Salle (3-3), Sunday 5:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia
AF:
Temple may have started its season later than most, but the Owls have come out of the gates strong. They began the year at the Charleston Classic, which they promptly won after posting three straight victories. And all three came in convincing fashion, beating Old Dominion, Auburn and Clemson by an average of 10.6 points.  

It was a team effort from the Owls, but they were powered by their senior co-captain Obi Enechionyia. The forward scored in double figures in all three wins and was the tournament’s MVP. Also, look for Enechionyia to pass the 1,000 point mark for his Temple career Sunday. He only needs two more points to reach that plateau. 

As great as Enechionyia played in the Classic, probably the best sight for Fran Dunphy and the rest of the Owls faithful on that court in Charleston had to be Josh Brown. The redshirt senior is back after missing nearly all of last year because of a torn Achilles. In the opening three games, Brown tallied 26 total points and seems to be getting his legs under him after sitting out such a long time. 

La Salle has hit a bit of a skid lately. But that’s more of a testament to the tough schedule John Giannini has laid out for his team than an actual poor performance on the court. The Explorers' three-game losing streak began with a loss to No. 20 Northwestern, it continued against Boston College and most recently came in the form of a defensive battle against No. 11 Miami. 

The game against the Hurricanes actually took place in Reading, billed as the return of hometown star Lonnie Walker, a freshman for Miami. This one was not pretty if you like offense. At the half, it was all square at 19. Nineteen whole points were all either team could muster after the opening twenty minutes. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a good game. Two hard-nosed teams fighting to the end and fighting to reach the 50-point mark. 

But in the end, La Salle needed scoring, and with only two players really accounting for that in B.J. Johnson and Pookie Powell, it wasn’t enough. All the defense in the world won’t get it done when you can’t muster more than 50 points in a game. But seeing what that defense could do against a very good Hurricanes squad has to keep La Salle’s opposing coaches up at night. 

Temple is no slouch when it comes to pressure defense, so I don’t anticipate this one being a high-scoring affair. And as much as I’d like to go with the home squad at the Gola, it’s hard to pick against a team who’s riding the momentum of three straight wins. 

Temple 64, La Salle 60

St. Joseph’s (2-2) vs. Harvard (2-3), Friday 4:00 p.m. in Wooden Legacy
SK:
The biggest challenge for St. Joe’s will be putting Thursday’s frustrating loss to Washington St. behind them. The Hawks led the Cougars by as many as 20 points in the first half, only to be outscored by 18 in the second half in a 75-71 loss.

Shavar Newkirk led the Hawks with 24 points in the loss but needed 21 shots to get those 24 points. The Hawks continue to play shorthanded without Charlie Brown, who is still working his way back from a preseason wrist injury. Freshman forward Taylor Funk has stepped up in Brown’s absence. However, Funk was held to a season-low eight points against Washington St. — the first time he’s failed to crack double digits this season.

The Harvard program has taken a step back after dominating the Ivy League in recent years. The Crimson have lost three straight games, including Thursday’s 18-point loss to No.  21 St. Mary’s. 

Expect St. Joe’s to play angry after squandering that big lead Thursday and pull away from Harvard in the second half.

St. Joseph’s 74, Harvard 63 

Drexel (2-3) vs. NJIT (2-2), Saturday 4:00 p.m.
AF:
I owe the Dragons, Zach Spiker and the Drexel basketball fans an apology. I did not think this team had a snowball’s chance in a desert of beating Houston. Last week in this column, I predicted (extremely incorrectly) that Houston would dispatch the Dragons by double digits. They did not. Instead, Drexel outscored the Cougars, 46-35, in the second half and won by four points. Nicely done. I won’t mention the clear hangover-type letdown of a 20-point loss to Mercer the very next night. Let’s be positive. 

In the final game of the Paradise Jam, it was a double-overtime heartbreaker at the hands of Drake (not the rapper, but a school in Iowa) to close out the tournament. 

This one against New Jersey Institute of Technology should be easier for the Dragons to bounce back with a victory. NJIT did enjoy some Division-III success a number of years ago, reaching that level’s Final Four. But NJIT is better known for fun things like applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, and solar-terrestrial physics. Yes, I looked that up.  

Drexel 79, NJIT 68

Penn (4-3) vs. Monmouth (2-3), Saturday 7:00 p.m.
AF:
The Quakers enjoyed their time in Florida this past week and it wasn’t just because of the warm sun, clear skies and beach sand. They won two out of three in the Gulf Coast Showcase. In fact, Penn has won four of its last five games. And they’ve done it all away from home. Steve Donahue’s team won’t return to the historic confines of The Palestra until after Christmas, on Dec. 27th. 

In the tournament, A.J. Brodeur was the only Penn player to post double-figure scoring in all three games. The dynamic duo of Brodeur and Ryan Betley is the engine that makes the Quakes go. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t give some kudos to Darnell Foreman. The senior guard has done everything asked of him, and he’s become a key factor, scoring over 11 points on average, with four assists per game. 

Monmouth is probably better known for its crazy bench mob and not making the NCAA tournament a few years ago than anything else. They’ve had better seasons, or at least better starts to their seasons. But with only two wins so far, and by a combined nine points, King Rich is still searching for a way to get Monmouth going. 

Penn 72, Monmouth 70

Prediction Records
Sean Kane:
4-1
Amy Fadool: 2-3

Fastbreak Friday: La Salle looks to upset No. 20 Northwestern

Fastbreak Friday: La Salle looks to upset No. 20 Northwestern

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. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season.

Note: Temple played Auburn at 11 a.m. on Friday in a game that started too early to include in this week's edition of Fastbreak Friday.

Lafayette (0-2) at No. 5 Villanova (2-0), Friday, 8 p.m. at PPL Center in Allentown
SK: 
Villanova makes the trip up the Northeast Extension to take on Lafayette in what is technically a home game for the Wildcats in a building located in their opponent's backyard. This will be the second meeting between these teams in a little over 12 months. Villanova beat Lafayette, 88-48, in the 2016-17 season opener last November.

Jay Wright's team is coming off a lopsided 113-77 win over Nicholls State on Tuesday. It was the program's highest point total in a game since 2003. Wright had some complaints concerning the Wildcats' defense following the game, but there wasn't much not to like about their offensive execution. Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo and Jalen Brunson combined for 60 points as Villanova shot 57 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point territory. 

Wright is utilizing a nine-man rotation that includes four freshmen. This is a deep and athletic Villanova team, but there will be some growing pains with so many first-year players taking on critical roles. Two members of that freshman class — starting center Omari Spellman and reserve guard Collin Gillespie — have had little trouble adjusting to the college game. Gillespie has been particularly impressive, averaging eight points and three assists in just over 18 minutes per game. The 2017 Philadelphia Catholic League Player of the Year is a steady ballhandler and passer with a smooth jump shot — he made four of 11 three-point attempts in the first two games of the season. 

Lafayette opened the season with losses at George Mason and NJIT. The 0-2 start comes on the heels of last season's 9-21 finish that saw the Leopards go 5-13 in Patriot League play. Lafayette is always well-coached under former Villanova star Fran O'Hanlon, but they don't have the talent to keep up with Villanova. Look for the Wildcats to roll on Friday night before things heat up next week at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.  

Villanova 85, Lafayette 60

La Salle (3-0) vs. No. 20 Northwestern (2-1), Saturday, 2:30 p.m. in Hall of Fame Classic in Connecticut
AF:
 The Explorers are 3-0 on the young season but it hasn’t been an easy undefeated start. Sure, Saint Peter’s wasn’t much of a test out of the gates, however, La Salle found some difficulty after that. It took two overtimes to finally put away Penn in the first Big 5 game of the year. Then Dr. John Giannini’s team saw a 20-point halftime lead evaporate at home Thursday night, letting South Alabama back into the game and winning by just eight points. 

B.J. Johnson has been as advertised for the Explorers. The senior transfer is everything they wanted and expected him to be: a scorer, a finisher and a leader. But he can’t do it by himself. La Salle needed all of his 30 points — 22 of them in the first half — to beat South Alabama. Guard-scoring hasn’t been an issue for La Salle in the past and that’s true once again. But getting some points in the paint and low block courtesy of a big man is something Giannini is really hoping Tony Washington can provide. 

I’ll tell you who could be a difference maker not only in this weekend’s game against Northwestern, but for the Explorers this season, Saul Phiri. He played 35 quality minutes Thursday night and was rewarded with a double-double, 14 points and 10 rebounds. On a team with plenty of guards, Phiri is still finding his way as a starter, but he could be a key contributor for La Salle to have a successful season. 

Funnily enough, Northwestern and La Salle shared an opponent already in Saint Peter’s. But unlike the Explorers, the Wildcats have already posted a loss this season, falling to Creighton this week. For more on that, check out our Fastbreak Friday video above. My co-author of this column will tell you all about the Big East.

Northwestern is ranked, though probably not for much longer if they play like they have in their first three games. They needed free throws late to hold off Loyola in their opener. 

If La Salle shoots well, there’s a chance they pull off the win in Connecticut. Northwestern’s defense got a workout with a very high-scoring Creighton team, so the game plan to beat the Wildcats has been laid out. But the Explorers will need all of their gunners and their big man to score well into double digits in this one. 

Northwestern 68, La Salle 64

Princeton (0-2) at Saint Joseph's (1-1), Saturday. 7 p.m.
SK:
You can forgive St. Joe's fans for thinking they can't catch a break. After losing their starting backcourt of Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble to season-ending injuries last season, the Hawks lost their best player Charlie Brown to a preseason wrist injury in October. Brown has yet to play this season. 

Then in the season-opener against Toledo, Kimble re-injured the same foot he fractured last season. Friday morning the school announced that Kimble is out for the remainder of the season as a result of the injury (see story). It's a devastating blow for the Hawks — Kimble is a team captain and terrific floor general.

Every team deals with injuries, but the Hawks have been downright ravaged by key players going down over the last 12 months. Phil Martelli's team has little choice but to soldier on. Without Brown and Kimble, St. Joe's pulled out a gritty 86-82 overtime win at UIC to even their season record at 1-1. James Demery was outstanding in the victory, scoring 25 points to go along with five rebounds and three steals. Freshman forward Taylor Funk added 22 points and nine rebounds. Funk has wasted no time making an impact -— averaging 19 points and 7.5 rebounds.  

The hope is Brown will be ready to rejoin the lineup in the near future. Even without Kimble, the Hawks will be a very difficult team to deal with once Brown returns. 

Princeton is a respectable 0-2 with losses to Butler and BYU. The Tigers are the defending Ivy League champs after winning 23 games a year ago. This is a very solid program that has proven they can play with anyone. I'd be surprised if Saturday's game isn't decided in the final minutes. But in the end, I'm banking on the Hawks figuring out a way to win in their home opener at Hagan Arena this season. 

Saint Joseph's 71, Princeton 69

PSU Brandywine (0-1) at Pennsylvania (1-2), Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
AF: 
The Quakers picked up their first win this week, dispatching Navy at the Palestra by 21 points. But it could’ve been a winning week if they would’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to take down La Salle and earn a Big 5 win in the process. 

Watching that game against La Salle, which I did on NBC Sports Philadelphia (shameless plug), you saw a spark in the Quakers that wasn’t present in the loss to Fairfield to start the season. Ryan Betley is definitely going to be the engine that makes this Penn squad go. But nice performances from Max Rothschild and Antonio Woods showed that there is some depth on this team.. 

But it was a cold night shooting, something that has plagued the Quakers in the past. Against the Explorers, Steve Donahue’s team was a woeful 34 percent from the field and just 25 percent from beyond the arc. Despite all of that, they were still in this game, forcing double overtime thanks to forcing La Salle into 17 turnovers. 

Defense and turning those miscues into points are going to be keys for Penn to beat teams this year and get back to the Ivy League Tournament. And if we learned anything from last year, this is a late-blooming team. So maybe if they figure out their scoring troubles early, they can set themselves up nicely for March. 

And this weekend’s opponent should help the Quakers find their shooting stroke. They welcome Penn State-Brandywine to the Palestra. It actually wraps up a brief home stand for Penn. The next eight games for the Quakers are on the road, not returning home until December 27th. But they will at least head out on the road on a winning note. 

Penn 77, PSU-Brandywine 63

Drexel (1-1) vs. Houston (1-0), Friday, 2:30 p.m. at Paradise Jam in Virginia
AF:
 Unfortunately, this game is not being held in its intended location. The Virgin Islands were ravaged by hurricanes this summer, so the Paradise Jam is taking place in Lynchburg, Virginia on the campus of Liberty University. As they say, the game must go on. On a humanitarian note, all tournament gate money will be donated to the U.S. Virgin Islands to help the recovery. So if you’re cruising around Appalachian, stop by and see some good basketball while helping a great cause. 

Drexel posted its first win earlier this week, beating Arcadia at the DAC. It was great to see the Dragons find their scoring groove, posting 95 points in the win. Also good to see, Tremaine Isabell. The transfer from Missouri tallied 15 of his 22 points in the second half and that’s something Zach Spiker has to like. And it should bode well for the Dragons as they get into the heart of their season. 

And speaking of scoring, Houston is no stranger to putting up points. In the Cougars' lone win of the season, they shot a blistering 69 percent in the first half and eventually put away McNeese State by nearly 30 points. Kelvin Sampson returns his top scorer a year ago in Rob Gray, who also led the American Athletic Conference with 20.6 points a game. To paraphrase Luke Walton who spoke about Joel Embiid, he’s gonna be a problem.  

Houston 85, Drexel 70

Prediction Records
Sean Kane: 2-1
Amy Fadool: 0-2