St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli had no complaints Wednesday night with the performance of senior guard Shavar Newkirk against Bucknell, but he knows “there’s a lot more there.”
The 6-foot Newkirk, coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament that sidelined him for the final 19 games last season, posted his first career double-double — 19 points and 10 rebounds — and added six assists to lift the Hawks to an 83-70 victory over the Bison at Hagan Arena
Martelli noted that Newkirk played 33 minutes but still isn’t quite in prime shape yet.
“I don’t think he’s playing like Shavar yet, and I don’t think it’s his leg,” Martelli said. “I think it’s his conditioning. He spent 10 months trying to get back on the court, but he hasn’t spent time yet to be conditioned to play.
“What I applauded him in front of his teammates was his courage to be out there. Even saying that, 19 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists and you say, ‘Man, that was an all-Big Five night.’ There’s a lot more there. He’s going to make shots at a high rate. I’m happy coming out with no turnovers.”
Newkirk shot just 1-of-8 in the first half and scored four points but entered halftime with seven rebounds and six assists.
“Being a basketball player is doing everything when you shot’s not falling,” Newkirk said. “My teammates have got confidence in me to keep shooting, so that’s what I’m going to do. But if it’s not falling, I’m going to try to get steals and rebounds and play great defense.”
The Hawks (4-3) had their defense working against the Bison (3-5), who came in averaging more than 85 points per game and boasting the nation’s No. 3 scorer (25.4-point average) in senior forward Zach Thomas. They limited Bucknell to 34.2 percent from the floor and 4-of-27 shooting from three-point range.
The 6-foot-7 Thomas made just 3 of 15 shots, mostly against either Pierfrancesco Oliva or James Demery, and scored 15 points to go with 19 rebounds.
The Hawks, who got a game-high 20 points from Demery, led by 40-27 at the half and started pulling away in the second half. A 7-0 run that featured a three-pointer and a jumper by Nick Robinson gave the Hawks their largest lead, 54-33, with just under 14 minutes to play.
Bucknell shot better from that point and cut the deficit to 73-62 on Thomas’ two free throws with 3:15 to play. The Bison, who made the NCAA tournament last year, could not get any closer.
“We just played an NCAA-level team,” Martelli said. “They’re playing in March. We didn’t play our best game of the year, we didn’t play our best half, we didn’t play our best stretch, and we were able to get out with a win.”