The period at the end of the fall semester is tough on any college basketball team, and St. Joseph’s showed that Sunday at Hagan Arena with some poor shot selection and subpar free-throw shooting against Maine.
Still, the Hawks excelled at taking care of the basketball, committing three turnovers, and capitalized on some loose ballhandling by the Black Bears that resulted in a 72-59 victory.
Seniors James Demery and Shavar Newkirk shot a combined 13 of 34 and led the Hawks (5-5) with 19 points apiece, while Demery added 10 rebounds. St. Joseph’s converted 17 Maine turnovers into 18 points.
The Hawks shots just 37.1 percent from the field on their home court, 24 percent from three-point range and 60.9 percent from the free-throw line, and were outrebounded 47-43. Coach Phil Martelli wasn’t overjoyed with the shots his team chose to take, and efforts to stop the visitors from going to the hoop.
“Shot decisions were deplorable,” he said. “Three turnovers were good, but then (those) straight-line drives … when you’re fighting to be a respectable team, you can’t give up straight-line drives. We’ll have to work on it.”
St. Joseph’s is in final exams until Monday. Asked if finals were a reason for the uneven performance, Martelli said it was more the fact that students were going home for the holidays rather than the exams.
“It’s campus empty,” he said. “They’re kids. They all want to go home. So fortunately for us, we have another game that is a name that will catch them, in a setting that will catch them. But that’s more than the finals, it’s the whole idea of, ‘I want to be a kid, I just want to go home.’”
The Hawks’ next game is Wednesday against St. John’s at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
The Black Bears (3-10) started 6 of 9 from beyond the arc in taking an eight-point lead in the first half before St. Joseph’s outscored them 16-5 in the final 8 minutes to take a 30-27 lead at the break. The Hawks opened the second half with a 9-0 run to increase their margin to 12.
Maine, which was led by Isaiah White with 21 points, got as close as 59-52 with just over 6 minutes remaining but a three-pointer by Taylor Funk and a steal and dunk by Nick Robinson got St. Joe’s lead back to double digits, and that’s where the margin stayed.
After losing Big Five games to Villanova and Temple, this is a win the Hawks needed.
“It was real big,” Newkirk said. “It’s given us momentum to when we play St. John’s, and we’re just going to try to get another win.”