Garrett Miley (@GWMiley)
Phil Martelli said before the Holy War with Villanova that he would play five players for 40 minutes, if necessary, to beat the Wildcats. And that wasn’t far from the truth.
Just seven players entered the game for the Hawks on Tuesday night, and every starter played a minimum of 32 minutes in the team’s loss to Villanova, 65-61. Once again, sophomore guard Chris Wilson was the only Hawk to record significant minutes off of the bench (24). Sophomore forward Papa Ndao briefly checked in (two minutes), but provided nothing significant for Martelli’s team.
Saint Joseph’s needs an efficient scorer to emerge from the bench other than Wilson. Take the performance of Villanova sophomore guard Achraf Yacoubou against the Hawks. In just 16 minutes, he scored nine points (including two 3-pointers) and grabbed 7 rebounds. Saint Joseph’s has not gotten efficient bench production from anyone other than Wilson this season, something that could prove disastrous and detrimental.
Ndao, the only Hawk other than Wilson to check into the Holy War, possesses an intriguing skill set with a great basketball frame. He has the ability to get rebounds and knock down an outside shot, but his efforts have been inconsistent this season. Ndao has also turned the ball over too much in his brief stints to be a reliable bench option at this point in his career, but there is upside in Ndao’s game.
Even more puzzling is the case of Daryus Quarles. After starting for coach Phil Martelli for the vast majority of last season, Quarles has not played a single minute in either of Saint Joseph’s last two games. It’s his experience that sets him apart from the rest of the Hawk bench.
This season, however, he has played 55 minutes (9.2 per game down from 19 last season) and has taken just 10 shots from the floor. Quarles tweeted after the game that he doesn’t understand why he isn’t playing, and it’s easy to understand him.
Putting bench players in a position where they feel like they have to produce in extremely limited minutes might be detrimental to their development, and certainly won’t help as much as regular playing time would, even if it’s only 7-8 minutes per game. The added pressure that stems from that scenario creates a difficult situation for a player that Ndao and Quarles have both seemed to struggle with at times this season.
But perhaps the most intriguing bench option Saint Joseph’s has is freshman forward Isaiah Miles. Miles had been one of the first two players off the bench for Saint Joseph’s the past few games, but was nowhere to be found against Villanova.
While Miles’ field goal attempts have been limited this season, he has shot 64 percent from the floor this season and 50 percent from behind the arc for the Hawks. His size (6-foot-7, 228 pounds), combined with his outside shooting ability, could be just what Saint Joseph’s needs in a wing player. He has appeared a bit lost and timid in his appearances this season, but the youngster from Baltimore, Md. has tremendous upside.
If Martelli and Saint Joseph’s manage to survive the A-10 regular season playing just six players consistently, the A-10 tournament will be a severe wake-up call. Playing back-to-back-to-back games with a six man rotation will prove to be nearly impossible for Saint Joseph’s, especially with the strength of the Atlantic 10 conference this season.
With the news that the university has suspended junior forward Halil Kanacevic for the team’s next two games, Martelli’s going to have to turn to his bench to get them through it. Presumably, Wilson will start for Kanacevic just as he did when the forward missed the game against American with a back injury.
This means that opportunities for forwards Ndao, Quarles, and Miles have now opened up against Fairfield and Iona. It will be interesting to see how Martelli distributes the sudden availability of front court minutes in the team’s next two games
Teams like Temple, Xavier, Butler, and VCU (just to name a few) are far too talented and deep to expect six players to compete for 40 minutes and come out victorious. For the rest of the regular season, the number one goal of the Hawks should be to develop reliable options from the bench.