WASHINGTON -- Give St. Joseph’s basketball team credit for not settling for moral victories.
The Hawks have had two straight difficult games on the road, lost both, but were awfully competitive against some good teams.
After opening with a 72-61 road at Western Kentucky in the first game of the season, the Hawks lost their last two road games.
The most recent was Sunday’s 66-60 defeat to American University at Bender Arena. It was the seventh consecutive victory for American, now 7-2.
The Hawks trailed by 13 early in the second half, would later tie the game, but couldn’t close the deal.
"We were average and we needed to be more than average," coach Phil Martelli said.
It was similar in a 104-99 double overtime loss at Iona on Nov. 23. The Hawks didn't play their best in either of the last two road games, but were competitive against solid teams.
“I don’t see positives even though we came back,” said junior guard Carl Jones, who is six points away from 1,000. “We wanted the W.”
Now comes the next step – having the Hawks win one of these nail biters on the road.
The Hawks didn’t react well to an American U team that forced St. Joseph’s into a half-court game.
Too many times, the Hawks would force an attempt as the shot clock was winding down.
And the Hawks had nobody to counter the quickness and shooting ability of 6-5 senior Charles Hinkle, who scored a career-high 32 points.
This is a player who averaged just 4.5 points per game as a junior after transferring from Vanderbilt, where he played sparingly for two seasons.
Hinkle shot 10 for 16 from the field, 5 of 9 from beyond the arc and hit all seven foul shots.
He was simply too quick for the St. Joseph’s frontcourt defenders.
The Hawks are now 5-3 and vastly improved from last year’s 11-22 edition, but to coach Phil Martelli and the players that isn’t enough.
The three losses, to Seton Hall, Iona and now American were by a total of 19 points. (The 78-70 loss to Seton Hall came on a neutral court in the Charleston (S.C) Classic.)
So there is no question the Hawks are much better than last year, but Martelli and the players don’t want that to be the standard to be measured by.
No longer will a good effort without the desired result be enough for the Hawks. They have raised their game and their expectations, which is why it was such a long bus ride home to Philadelphia.