Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Not many Division I teams in the country have a frontcourt that can compete with Saint Joseph’s mix of size, athleticism and basketball IQ.
As for a Division-II school, like Wheeling (W.Va.) Jesuit? Good luck.
A dominant performance by a trio of junior Hawk forwards led Saint Joseph’s to a 71-50 victory on Thursday night, starting a trend that should continue all season for the preseason Atlantic 10 Conference favorites.
Wheeling Jesuit struggled all night against a Saint Joseph’s frontcourt that held a 46-29 advantage on the boards and blocked five Cardinal shots, with C.J. Aiken (6-of-9, 13 points) and Halil Kanacevic (two points, eight rebounds) giving up nothing easy inside. The visitors shot just 27.0 percent (17-of-63) for the game, hitting just 9-of-36 (25.0 percent) from beyond the arc as they struggled to find open looks against the SJU length.
Saint Joseph’s broke it open fairly early, using a 10-0 run to go up 26-13 with 9:08 remaining in the first half and cruising to a 35-19 lead at the break. Langston Galloway played a big role in that early surge, hitting four first-half 3-pointers.
“As guys were going in and out of the game, they weren’t make enough ‘plus’ plays,” SJU coach Phil Martelli said. “So we were looking for that in the second half. We did a little bit better job with that in the second half.”
Ronald Roberts, the defending A-10 Sixth Man of the Year who’s now starting at power forward, opened the second half on a 7-0 run of his own for SJU as part of his game-high 19 points (tied with Galloway), helping the Hawks lead by as many as 27 in the second half.
“It’s all work, it’s all what he did in last spring, last summer and this preseason,” Martelli said. “There’s no way, when you start to think about a starting lineup, that he wasn’t going to be in that lineup. I thought he played with a lot of energy, I was really pleased with the fact that he had to chase a little kid around the court–and I don’t mean that disrespectively, but he’s going to play against perimeter guys.”
Saint Joseph’s got some bad news a few hours before the game with the news that starting guard Carl “Tay” Jones had been suspended for three games for a “violation of the University’s community standards.” The 5-11 combo guard was second on the team in scoring last season with 16.8 points per game, also chipping in 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest.
Sophomore point guard Chris Wilson got the start in place of his suspended teammate, scoring 10 points and dishing out seven assists against just two turnovers in preparation for his second career start in Monday’s season opener against Yale.
“I think I played okay,” Wilson told CoBL afterwards.” I definitely think I left a couple plays out there, missed a couple easy shots but we got the win so that’s the most important thing.”
“We just want to eliminate the times he swings for the fences,” Martelli said. “He knows that he’s playing with good players, so I’m anxious to see him develop.”
Without Jones, the Hawks had a very thin backcourt as sophomore guard Evan Maschmeyer (hand) was also unavailable due to injury. A lineup that often consisted of four forwards struggled shooting the ball from beyond the arc, hitting just 6-of-22 (27.3 percent) as Galloway made all but one of his team’s treys (on eight attempts). Wilson played 29 minutes while Galloway played 26, though they both seem sure to play close to 35 each over the next two games.
“The hiccup now is with these injuries,” Martelli said. “We’re really practicing with just 11 guys, but we’ll make that work.”
Jones suspension was effective for the Wheeling Jesuit victory, and he’ll also sit out the Hawks’ first two regular-season games: the aforementioned Yale game and the CvC semifinal matchup against Notre Dame next Friday at the brand-new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York.
“I know we need him, so I’m not happy about it at all that he’s not out there–great player, him and Langston defeinitely make me better every day in practice,” Wilson said. “Definitely looking forward to getting him back but I just look at it as a chance to step into a role…just play my game, get these guys the ball, attack, put pressure on the defense, make plays.”
Hawks freshman Isaiah Miles made his first appearance just over 10 minutes into the game, missing his first four attempts from the field before unofficially scoring his first bucket at Saint Joseph’s with 7:17 remaining on a 3-pointer. Miles finished with 3 points and five rebounds in 17 minutes; fellow freshman Javon Baumann scored three points and picked up a board in the final six minutes of the game.
Last season, the Cardinals went 22-10 (16-6 WVIAC), earning a bid to the D-II NCAA tournament where they lost to Shaw in the second round. This season they were picked seventh in their league’s preseason poll after losing seniors Steve Catich (20.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Obi Ukwuoma (12.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Marquis Moore (9.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg), all of whom started all 32 games a season ago.
Freshman Justin Fritts had 18 points as the only member of the Cardinals in double figures.