St. Joseph's ends losing streak with win over Massachusetts

Shavar Newkirk, left, of St. Joseph’s drives to the basket against Unique McLean of Massachusetts during the 2nd half at Hagan Arena on Feb. 10, 2018.

The question for the St. Joseph’s basketball team after a slump-busting victory Saturday is:  How much do the players want to demand of themselves for the rest of the season?

On paper, it can be argued that they do not have  a lot to play for in the last six games of the regular season.

The Hawks could run the table and still wouldn’t have a resume good enough to get an NCAA at-large bid. If they did win all their remaining regular-season games and won a game or two in the Atlantic Ten  \tournament, they might be able to earn a berth in the NIT.

But St. Joseph’s only real shot at postseason play is the automatic NCAA bid that would come with winning the A-10 tournament. Considering the Hawks have not won more than two consecutive games all season, asking them to win four or five straight to claim a conference title would be a huge task — not impossible, but huge.

This has to be an internal push – something that comes from the gut of their being competitive athletes. Sometimes the motivation for winning a game is little more than that it beats losing one.

Camera icon CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Taylor Funk, right, of St. Joseph’s goes up for a 2nd half basket against Unique McLean of Massachusetts at Hagan Arena on Feb. 10, 2018.

Hawks coach Phil Martelli basically told his players that before they took the court on Saturday against Massachusetts at Hagan Arena.

“You have two choices,” Martelli said. “Accept conditions as they presently exist or accept the responsibility for changing that. The champions in this room will accept that responsibility.”

The Hawks took responsibility.

Playing its most complete game in a long time, St. Joseph’s ended a five-game losing streak with an 85-73 victory over Massachusetts.

Freshman Taylor Funk scored 22 points, James Demery and Chris Clover had 18 points, and Shavar Newkirk had 13 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists for the Hawks (10-14, 4-7  A-10).

Martelli said the game didn’t indicate anything more than that the Hawks can win.

“I’m not a big believer in you learn things out of losing,” he said. “This means on Monday that I can try to build something off of a win. It’s late, but there’s more. We can still play better.”

With the scored tied at the half, St. Joseph’s kept its offense flowing and turned up the defensive pressure to take down the Minutemen (11-14, 4-8).

Luwane Pipkins and Carl Pierre each scored 21 for UMass.

“When you’re losing it’s easy to start pointing fingers at each other,” Newkirk said. “We haven’t done that. What we said is that we have to look at ourselves individually and decide what each of us could do to make the team better.

“We want to play as many games as we can. In basketball, it’s all about getting hot at the right time. There are six games left in the regular season and then we go into the A-10 tournament.”

Camera icon CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
James Demery, left, and Nick Robinson of St. Joseph’s battle players from Massachusetts for a rebound during the 1st half at Hagan Arena on Feb. 10, 2018.