For the most part, St. Joseph’s has been competitive in Atlantic-10 games this season. And while the Hawks were sort of competitive in Saturday’s 76-64 loss to La Salle at the Palestra, it was only the second A-10 game that they lost by double digits.
The fact that the first one was in last Saturday’s 80-62 defeat at UMASS, is not a good sign for a team still searching for consistency so late in the season.
The Hawks were within distance, but in the last 10 minutes, couldn’t get closer than seven points. And thus the performance brought this blunt assessment from coach Phil Martelli.
“We stood toe to toe with VCU and Butler, all those teams above us and this was another chance and basically, we have to call it the way it is, we didn’t stand toe to toe,” Martelli said.
The Hawks lost at home to Butler, 72-66 and suffered an overtime 92-86 loss at VCU.
St. Joseph’s has a week off before hosting George Washington. There are only five games left in the regular season. The A-10 record is 5-6.
Even earning one of the 12 spots to compete in the A-10 Tournament is not assured.
As Martelli has said repeatedly, it’s not that his team isn’t playing hard. They just aren’t playing well.
The Hawks often run the shot clock down and then end up taking forced shots. Yet the Hawks shot 53.1 percent from the field against La Salle, including 63 percent in the second half.
The Hawks lost this game on the defensive end, where La Salle shot 62.2 percent for the game and 62.5 percent (10 for 16) from beyond the arc.
La Salle missed just six shots in the second half, going 16 for 22 (72.7 percent).
Martelli says that La Salle won’t always shoot like this, but just a week ago the Explorers shot 18 for 33 from three-point range in an 89-53 win over Fordham.
So La Salle has the capability to stretch a defense and make it pay for allowing open shots.
Usually with the presence of C.J. Aiken and his shot blocking ability, Hawks opponents don’t have much success inside, but La Salle big men Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack combined for 18 points on 9 for 13 shooting and most were near the basket.
So this was a total defensive breakdown. Every time the Hawks made what looked like a second half run, La Salle would answer.
That is what standing toe to toe is all about.