St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli has adopted the philosophy of Eagles coach Chip Kelly when focusing on the regular season and not allowing the thought of postseason to enter into his mind.
Even though the 19-7 Hawks are very much in the running for a bid in the NCAA Tournament, Martelli insists that he doesn’t look that far ahead.
“I don’t know him or anything but Chip Kelly’s approach was to keep his head down and keep going until Dec. 31 and then he looked up and they were in the playoffs,” Martelli said after Saturday’s 87-72 win over visiting Fordham. “So if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for us.”
That means, according to Martell, it’s not one game at a time, but one day at a time. And he’s saying that because despite Saturday’s win, Martelli wasn’t happy with certain aspects of his team’s game.
So despite a record-setting performance by guard Langston Galloway over Fordham, Martelli saw plenty of warts that he will address.
“We gave up nine offensive rebounds and had nine turnovers in the first half and we were no better in the second half,” said Martelli, whose team is in sole possession of second place with a 9-3 A-10 mark with four games left.
His team committed 19 turnovers for the game.
“We have to be a lot better tomorrow,” he said. “We had 19 turnovers against no pressure."
By tomorrow, he was speaking about the Hawks next practice in preparation for Tuesday’s key game at Hagan Arena against Dayton.
Like St. Joseph’s, Dayton has NCAA Tournament aspirations. And also like the Hawks, Dayton has plenty of work to still do.
After averting an upset in Saturday’s 57-54 win over Duquesne, Dayton is 19-8, 7-5. The Flyers lost at home, 60-57 to St. Joseph’s and will be in even a more desperate situation.
Still, these are games that are doubly important to the Hawks since both teams are in the running to improve their NCAA resumes. And each wouldn’t mind earning a opening bye in the A-10 Tournament.
So Martelli, while happy that Galloway set a single-season school record with 10 three-point field goals while scoring a career-high 33 points, refuses to let his foot off the break.
That is why he was most upset about the Hawks 19 turnovers. And the fact that DeAndre’ Bembry, the team’s top defender, has now played with four fouls for the second consecutive game.
In addition, Halil Kanacevic has been plagued by recent foul trouble. In the last nine games, he has fouled out once and recorded four fouls six times.
“We won’t play late in the Atlantic-10 Tournament if either one of them are on the bench,” Martelli said. “They play big minutes for a reason.”
Martelli says that Bembry appears to be standing up straight while playing D, not bending his knees enough.
Bembry has another explanation.
“I have been overly aggressive,” he said.
Of course what has made the 6-foot-6 Bembry such a strong defender is that he is aggressive. Now he must draw that fine line between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough.
Either way, Martelli won’t allow another win to cloud his outlook.
He understands that his team won’t be able to get away with 19 turnovers against many opponents. Fordham is 2-10 in the A-10 so the margin for error against the Rams is much greater.
That is why Martelli isn’t looking at all the potential playoff scenarios in the upcoming A-10 Tournament, or taking a glance at all the other NCAA bubble teams.
He has guided five teams to the NCAA Tournament, so Martelli knows the drill. And he understands that merely winning isn’t always enough.
That is why he is on his team to have better execution. He knows he has a team capable of making it to the Big Dance, and that is why he won’t overlook anything, even in victory.