Saturday, July 12, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Opening night wrap-up

St. Joe's, Temple and Villanova all won.

Opening night wrap-up

Phil Martelli had plenty to shout about, even if the fans at the Wachovia Center did not.<br>(Jerry Lodriguss/Staff Photographer)
Phil Martelli had plenty to shout about, even if the fans at the Wachovia Center did not.
(Jerry Lodriguss/Staff Photographer)

St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli admitted that his team was "nervous" when it practiced at the Wachovia Center for the first time on Thursday night. Those nerves carried over into tonight's game against Rider, a 69-57 win that was far from a work of art.

The teams combined for 61 missed shots and 29 turnovers, and the crowd of 6,815 never quite got all the way into it. Obviously, part of that was having a crowd that size in an arena three times as big, but when Darrin Govens' three-pointer pushed the Hawks' lead to 16 points with 10:56 left in the second half, the game was pretty close to over already.

Maybe if Rider had been able to score when it had the ball down eight with 3:23 to play, things would have been different, But Novar Gadson missed two free throws after being fouled by Idris Hilliard, and Mike Ringgold missed a layup after rebounding Gadson's second shot.

Hilliard then made up for the foul by rebounding Ringgold's miss, then putting back Garrett Williamson's missed jumper to push the lead back to double digits with 2:25 remaining.

If you fell asleep during the second half (the chatters on my game blog certainly did), you missed an impressively efficient 20 minutes by St. Joe's. The Hawks averaged 1.226 points per possession after halftime, while Rider managed only 0.824.

The final stats were these: Rider shot 21-for-60 from the field, including 5-for-12 from three-point range, and 10-for-16 from the free throw line. Sixteen offensive rebounds (from 39 missed FGAs and six missed FTAs), 20 defensive rebounds, eight assists, 15 turnovers, one block seven steals and 20 fouls committed.

That adds up to 66 possessions and 0.856 points per possession for the game.

St. Joe's shot 25-for-47 from the field, including 3-for-13 from three-point range (and therefore 22-for-34 from inside the arc, which made up for the perimeter woes), and 16-for-22 from the line. Six offensive rebounds, 28 defensive rebounds, 18 assists, 14 turnovers, five blocks, eight steals and 18 fouls committed.

That adds up to 65 possessions and 1.054 points per possession for the game.

Ahmad Nivins had an incredibly quiet double-double, with 25 points and 14 rebounds. Seventeen of those points came after halftime, and maybe the quietness of it was due in part to the size of the Hawks' lead.

"If he averages a double-double then we have a chance to be pretty good in March," Martelli said.

It was a statement of the obvious, but sometimes the obvious answer is still the best one. Nivins is a real presence, not just a big guy on the floor. When his game is clicking, it can definitely help calm those aforementioned pregame nerves.

The downside for St. Joe's was a six-turnover night for starting point guard Tasheed Carr. Unfortunately, my audio recorder spazzed out on me during the postgame press conferences, so I don't have the clip of Martelli riffing on how and why Carr would hear plenty from him ahead of Sunday's trip to Holy Cross.

Speaking of nerves, the atmosphere at the Hart Center could be pretty interesting. The Crusaders will be retiring Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn's jerseys before the game, and both legends will be in the house for the ceremony.

Martelli admitted that he isn't quite sure his players get just how big a deal it is, and he'll be trying to convey that message before the team leaves for Worcester, Mass.

On the whole, though, Friday was a successful day for the Big 5. In addition to St. Joe's winning, Villanova easily handled Albany at the Pavilion and Temple beat East Tennessee State in the first round of the Charleston Classic.

(By the way, you've probably noticed by now that some of the box scores I link to are at Basketball State, which requires a subscription after you click through it a certain number of times. I would highly recommend subscribing if you have the money, because there is an incredible wealth of data there and I'll be referring to it throughout the season.

Also, the site's proprietor, Kyle Whelliston, is a friend and reader of this blog and he works his ass off every winter to deliver the best mid-major basketball coverage on the web.)

Speaking of mid-majors, fans of the little guy across the country are rejoicing tonight after Kentucky lost at home in November to a Big South opponent for the second year in a row.

Last season, Gardner Webb laid an 84-68 spanking on Big Blue in the second round of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. This time around, VMI literally ran out of Rupp Arena with an equally impressive 111-103 win.

The Keydets still play that crazy up-tempo offense, and managed to pull off the upset despite being out-rebounded by a whopping 48-27 margin.

While guard Jodie Meeks scored 39 of the Wildcats' points, VMI's offense was remarkably balanced. Six Keydets scored in double figures, led by Travis Holmes' 30 points. In addition, no player had more assists than Chavis (that's not a typo) Holmes' six, and no one pulled down more rebounds than Willie Bell's eight.

On top of that, Bell, Chavis Holmes and Austin Kenon finished with four fouls, while Keith Gabriel fouled out.

Both teams were impressively efficient despite a tempo in the 90s. VMI averaged 1.20 points per possession, while Kentucky averaged 1.10.

All this and we've still only played one full day of the season. Wow.

We close the evening with Lines of the Day, and the local division is split between Nivins and Dionte Christmas. It's a fair bet that this won't be the last time this season that these two are in the statistical spotlight.



Name
Min
FG
FT
3pt
OR
DR
TR
A
S
TO
Blk
PF
Eff
Pts
A. Nivins
38
9-11
7-9
0-0
3
10
13
2
1
1
4
3
49
25

Name
Min
FG
FT
3pt
OR
DR
TR
A
S
TO
Blk
PF
Eff
Pts
D. Christmas
40
9-16
3-6
5-10
1
10
11
6
2
4
0
2
29
26


The national division winner for tonight is Oklahoma's Blake Griffin. The Sooners dismantled reigning Patriot League champions American University, 83-54, in Norman, shooting 53.8 percent from the field to AU's 35 percent.

Name
Min
FG
FT
3pt
OR
DR
TR
A
S
TO
Blk
PF
Eff
Pts
B. Griffin
33
9-11
5-14
1-1
2
18
20
1
1
0
1
1
36
24


Finally, don't forget to vote in the Readership Survey. The polls will be open through Thursday, so vote early and often and spread the word.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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