Frustrations grow for Phil Martelli, St. Joe's in 9th straight loss

Frustrations grow for Phil Martelli, St. Joe's in 9th straight loss


St. Joe's could not solve Rhode Island's high-intensity defense Wednesday night, falling, 68-49, at Hagan Arena (see Instant Replay).

Before the first media timeout, the Hawks already had four turnovers. Even coach Phil Martelli can admit it comes down to skill and depth -- both areas the Hawks lack in.

"We came out and turned the ball over," Martelli said. "That's not sluggish, that's skill. We turned the ball over four times by the first media timeout. It has nothing to do with being sluggish, it has everything to do with the skill of running, passing and dribbling the ball.

"I'm not killing anybody, but on the first play of the game, our guy dribbled the ball off his foot into the backcourt. We threw at least three passes into the crowd."

St. Joe's finished with 13 turnovers.

Its troubles began in the first half as it fell behind, 36-20, thanks to a 12-2 run by the Rams late in the stanza. The Hawks never held a lead in the game. 

"They're a great defensive team," Brendan Casper said. "They pressure the ball, they overplay the wings and they make it difficult for you to get into an offense. I think we struggled with that today. We couldn't initiate the first pass and we were slow. We couldn't get the ball out on the break, I don't know how many fast-break points we had but I feel like we were slow in the break.

"So credit to them for a great defense, but also we didn't run offense. We missed foul shots. When we got looks, they didn't always drop, but they're one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10."

Casper started for Nick Robinson, who played only eight minutes because of a foot injury. The fourth different starting point guard for the Hawks was right about St. Joe's being lost at the free throw line, where it went 9 for 20 (45 percent).

However, it wasn't just the charity stripe. The Hawks struggled in the paint, an area they were outscored, 34-20, while the bench was outscored, 27-9. St. Joe's also shot just 2 for 9 from beyond the arc.

This is the ninth straight loss for the Hawks. They have not lost that many in a row since January 2011.

"I find the closest brick wall and run straight into it," Martelli said. "As many times as I can. Because that's what I'm doing, that's what it feels like. All I can do it ask them to fill up their tank, and to show up.

"All I can do is come up with a plan. Tonight's plan: zone. We played one possession of man-to-man. And people will say, 'You just waved the white flag.' Well, give me an option here. What if we had foul trouble? We would have been down to volunteers to play, so we couldn't afford foul trouble."

Martelli has been without his starting point guard Lamarr Kimble, who injured his foot on Feb. 11 against UMass, and leading scorer Shavar Newkirk, who tore his ACL earlier this season.

Freshman Charlie Brown still believes in his point guards not named Kimble.

"We have Nick and Brendan, who get our offense started," Brown. "When it comes down to it, we need to be scoring more."

With a pair of triples Wednesday, Brown set the Hawks' freshman record for threes in a season at 66. He hit his first one two minutes into the contest and waited until there were 45 seconds left in the game to enter the record books.

"It's a great feeling," Brown said. "I thank my teammates, first of all. They allow me to get open and take my shots and I really thank them for that."

Records aside, this was still another Hawks loss because of a young team with players that have not fully matured yet.

"Call it the way it is," Martelli said. "That was participation. That wasn't a competition.

"I think they gave me what they have, it's just their games are light. Team with the better players won and team with the more manly players won."

Prior to the start of the game, Casper and Javon Baumann were honored for senior night.

Martelli spoke highly of each and mentioned they have contributed to rich history of St. Joe's basketball.

"They have two [A-10] championships," Martelli said. "They have two championships in four years and Javon already graduated in 3½ years. Brendan is a remarkable athletic honor-roll student. They are leaving as champions. They get a tattoo for this [season's] record, too, but they have two Atlantic 10 rings. Job well done."

Casper left the game to a thunderous applause late in the second half.

"There are definitely a lot of emotions in your last home game," Casper said. "Especially getting the start at point guard … you want to go out and play well in your last game."

Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

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Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

Fresh off a second national championship in three years, this was bound to happen. Jay Wright is a hot name. 

And according to the New York Daily News, the Knicks plan on reaching out to Wright about their vacant head coaching job. 

Just don’t expect Wright to be interested. 

The 56-year-old coach has been determined to build Villanova into a powerhouse since he took the head coaching gig way back in 2001 and he’s finally done that. On the surface, maybe some think that would be enough to make him want to take his coaching to the top league in the world. Not so fast. 

In a recent interview with The Athletic, Wright said pretty flatly that he’s staying at Villanova because he loves it there. 

“The NBA does intrigue me,” Wright said. “That challenge is appealing but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.”

In that interview, Wright talked about his time at Hofstra and quoted Jim Valvano, who once said, ‘Don’t mess with happy.’ That was true at Hofstra until the Villanova job came around, so maybe there’s a chance the Knicks could blow him away. It just doesn’t seem likely. 

The Knicks just fired head coach Jeff Hornacek after a 29-53 record in 2017. The Knicks haven’t had a winning record since 2012-13. 

The New York Daily News cites a source, who said the Knicks believe Wright would be a “perfect candidate for a rebuilding club.” The Knicks might be right, but don’t bet on them getting Wright. 

Jalen Brunson hires agent, declares for NBA draft

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Jalen Brunson hires agent, declares for NBA draft

Villanova is losing its second star player in two days. 

Guard Jalen Brunson has decided to hire an agent and enter the 2018 NBA Draft, he wrote in a letter to Nova Nation on ESPN. He will forego his senior season at Villanova after an incredible college career. 

This news comes a day after his teammate Mikal Bridges announced he will also head to the NBA draft.

“It is with great honor and privilege that I have called Villanova University my home for the past three years,” Brunson wrote in ESPN. “When I decided to commit to Coach Jay Wright and the basketball program, I was driven by three goals: getting my education, competing at the highest level and winning a national championship. While I pride myself on remaining disciplined and focused to achieve these goals, I have grown as a man and have established lifelong relationships with my teammates, classmates, members of the basketball staff, fellow student-athletes and the wonderful educators and administrators of this prestigious university.”

Brunson leaves Villanova as one of the greatest players in Wildcats history, helping lead Villanova to its second national championship in three years. 

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 18.9 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game this season. Brunson was named the Big East Player of the Year and was the Wooden Award and Naismith Award winner this season.