Garrett Miley @GWMiley
After a long Holy War hangover, Saint Joseph’s (5-3) will take on Fairfield (7-5) on Saturday at home in Hagan Arena.
The Hawks suspended junior forward Halil Kanacevic for their next two games after exhibiting unsportsmanlike conduct against Villanova. That means sophomore guard Chris Wilson will likely get his fifth start of the season for the Hawks in place of Kanacevic, but the rest of the Saint Joseph’s bench is going to need to step up to fill the temporary void left by Kanacevic’s suspension.
“Isaiah [Miles], Papa [Ndao], and Daryus [Quarles] all have to give us something,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “But, that’s true of our whole team. We have a good team where no one is playing well. There isn’t any one guy that you would say ‘oh yeah, he’s right where you would expect.’”
Wilson’s return to the starting lineup for Martelli’s team is awfully intriguing. In games where Wilson has logged at least 30 minutes of action, Saint Joseph’s is 5-1. In the two instances where Wilson recorded sub-30 minutes of playing times, the Hawks are 0-2.
Wilson has been efficient on the court in his sophomore season. He is averaging under two turnovers a game this season and is also shooting a higher percentage from the floor (46.2 percent) than both of his backcourt mates Langston Galloway (42.7) and Carl Jones (41.7).
However, the production the Hawks get from Wilson alone is not enough to fill the void of Kanacevic’s suspension. Coach Martelli is looking for the other members of his not-so-deep bench to take this opportunity to play, especially with the end of the fall semester.
“Every one of our players needs to advance their game,” Martelli said. “And this is a good time because you really do concentrate on basketball right now.”
Freshman forward Isaiah Miles could indeed be the guy called upon to take on significant minutes that have now been freed up with the absence of Kanacevic.
“Halil being out is a big opportunity for me, Daryus, and Papa,” Miles said. “It’s an opportunity that has slapped us in the face and we have to come out and show for it.”
Miles appears to be ready to take on a larger role for the Hawks and has been working incessantly in the weight room to make himself able to be a better defender in rebounder in the college game. Since Miles first arrived on Hawk Hill, he has added nearly 20 pounds of muscle and is currently a formidable 230 pounds.
“[Martelli] wants me to focus on my rebounding and defense,” Miles said. “Now that finals are over I’ve been able to get into the weight room more so I can get more time on the court.”
The play of Ronald Roberts Jr. is another extremely puzzling development for the Hawks. After putting up huge numbers against Yale, Notre Dame, and Florida State to start the season, Roberts has recorded double digit rebounds just once in the Hawks’ last five games.
Until his last game against Villanova, Roberts had been struggling both from the field and from the free throw line since his big early season production outbursts. Perhaps Roberts’ 10 point performance against Villanova, which included a thunderous alley-oop slam (something that has been missing from the Hawks this year), will point both he and Saint Joseph’s in the right direction.
Fairfield is not a stranger to Philadelphia basketball this season. The Stags have recorded wins over both Penn and Drexel this year, but Saturday at Saint Joseph’s will be their first trip to the City of Brotherly Love this season.
“The thing I like about their team is that they are balanced,” Martelli said. “They have eight guys averaging six points or more. [Derek] Needham leads them because he takes double the shots anyone else takes and because he has unlimited range but we have to make sure that we don’t allow other guys to come in here and get double digits.”
Senior guard Derek Needham, as mentioned by Martelli, leads Fairfield in scoring at 14.4 points per game, and is also second on the team in assists averaging 4.0 per game. Needham is 5-foot-11, a clear defensive matchup for the Hawks’ Carl Jones.
“With Needham we have to use our size, and Tay [Jones] has to answer a challenge,” Martelli said. “Tay is not known defensively but he’s going to have be known defensively in this game. When Langston guards him, we have to use their size against him.”
Fairfield junior forward Maurice Barrow could be someone that the Hawks have trouble matching up with. The 6-foot-5 forward could be problematic with Saint Joseph’s slated to start three guards with the absence of Kanacevic. A true wing player is something that Martelli’s team is lacking. Players like Miles and Quarles are going to need to step up and take on the defensive role Barrow, Fairfield’s second leading scorer this season and a double digit scorer against both Penn and Drexel.
Tip-off between Saint Joseph’s and Fairfield is set for 2:00 p.m. on Saturday at Hagan Arena.