2013 Kronum Season Preview: Urban Legends

The Urban Legends' 2013 success will depend on Kevin Clark rising above the competition.

The Urban Legends’ 2013 success will depend on Kevin Clark rising above the competition.

This is part four in an 8-part series leading up to the 2013 Kronum regular season.  You can also check out parts one, two, and three

2011 Results: 6-4 Regular Season, 2-1 Playoffs, League Runner-Up

2011 Leaders:

UL Stats

Key Losses: Cory Robertson

Key Additions: Dan Vignola, Bryan Friedrich, Joe Ammendola, Pat Dexter

Every sport has some teams that do things a little differently.  College football has Georgia Tech and the triple option offense, the Suns famously ran their seven seconds or less offense in the NBA, and in major league baseball, the Astros are experimenting with using fans out of the stands in their line-up (I’m assuming that’s what they’re doing in looking at their roster).  In Kronum, the Urban Legends stand apart, with a unique soccer-style attack that sticks to the roots of the sport.

In the original Kronum season, every team focused on scoring with their feet through a ground game attack.  With many Legends roster members having a Drexel D-1 soccer background, the Urban Legends excelled in that environment, winning the first mid-season Captain’s Cup championship.  However, as the league has evolved, teams have moved more to scoring through the air from the flex and cross zones.  This approach possesses the benefits of increased accuracy on net and allowing less time for the defense to react to the shooter.

Due to the make-up of their roster, the Urban Legends still adhere to the ground attack.  Their 121 made wedge zone shots were almost twice as many as the next highest team (63), converting those attempts at a 39.5% efficiency which ranked 2nd best in the league.  Despite excelling in that area, the team only shoots around 37.2% overall, which is well below the top scoring teams in the league who range between 43-45%.  Their roster may lack a sufficient amount of powerful throwers to take advantage of the direction the league is heading.  By being stuck in the past, the Legends may be hurting their future.

One man who has no difficult scoring in any league environment is Legends’ All-Star and League MVP Kevin Clark.  Clark was third in the league in scoring last season at 25.0 ppg, but given his team’s slower pace of play, actually scored the largest percentage of his team’s points at 23.6%.  With a level of athleticism unsurpassed in Kronum, Clark can do it all, scoring with his feet like many of his Legends’ teammates, but also displaying a dominance from the cross zone.  There’s a reason that area of the field is nicknamed the ‘Clark Zone’, as Kevin led the league with 176 cross zone points, almost double the next highest total, Luke Dougan with 100.  He also hit some big ring shots as his 4 8-point Kronums tied for most in the league with the Work Horses’ Dave Slusser.

Another pivotal piece for the Legends is All-Star wedgeback Kevin Glover.  Glover leads his team’s ground attack as he tied for 2nd in the league with 28 kick shots made with the Work Horses’ Matt Urglavitch.  Glover is more than a one-trick pony, though, as his added prowess from the flex zone is what makes him so valuable to the Legends.  He was third on the team in flex zone scoring behind teammates Mike Ragan and Brian Sperling, but his 7 ring shots made from the flex zone tied Joe Petrino for best in the league.  Those big 4-point ring shots bring a necessary added dimension to the Legends’ offense.

The Urban Legends are the final of three teams returning a league-best 11 roster members.  However, one departure sticks out like a sore thumb as Cory Robertson will not be re-joining the team in 2013.  In addition to leading the team in saves, Robertson was 5th on the team in scoring and 4th in assists, while ranking as one of only three players in the league to average a double-double, along with the Night Owls’ Joe Tulskie and Greg Ashton.  Robertson had also earned a reputation as the best shootout wedgeback in Kronum, having led the Legends to two shootout victories last season, including one in the semifinals.  Robertson’s combination of clutch play, overall floor game, and team leadership represents a huge loss for the Legends in the upcoming season.

Rookie Dan Vignola will fill the vacated starting wedgeback position left by Robertson; another Drexel soccer alumnus, Vignola is another in a long line of Legends who will excel from the wedge zone.  Another important rookie for the Urban Legends is Bryan Friedrich.  Captain Scott Anderson will look to Friedrich to play all three positions as a super-utility man off the bench.  Friedrich can use both hands and feet and should be a valuable contributor once he gains more experience.  

Other players counted on by the Legends are third-leading scorer Mike Ragan, as well as Greg Ermold and Brian Sperling.  Ermold and Sperling both averaged double digits last season while having the two best shooting percentages of returning players (min. 3 shot attempts per game) at 48.0% and 46.9%, respectively.  Added contributions for these guys, in addition to one or two of the rookies stepping up, will be counted upon to fill the void left by Robertson’s departure.

The Urban Legends’ soccer background serves them well on the defensive end, as their speed and stamina enables one of the premier defensive teams in Kronum.  As a result, they should remain close in every contest; the deciding factor will be whether they can improve upon their scoring efficiency.  The Legends certainly have the talent and athleticism to be a force in the league.  It will be up to Anderson to strike the right balance between playing to the team’s strengths and finding more help for Clark in scoring through the air.

Regular Season Prediction: 4-6 (T-5th Place)

As we’ve discussed and will expand upon in future previews, some other teams in the Kronum league have made some big acquisitions to try and make the leap into the upper half of the league.  The Legends have not brought in any players with proven experience while losing on-field leadership and one of the unique talents in the league in Cory Robertson.  With Kevin Clark sure to draw plenty of attention from opposing defense, if one or two rookies prove to be instant contributors, the Legends have the ability to make another deep playoff run.  However, the Robertson loss and the continued evolution of the game through the air will prove to be huge factors as the Legends drop a bit off last season’s pace.

#13 La Salle vs. #4 Kansas State NCAA 2nd Round Game Preview

La Salle may have reached the end of the track facing a tough Kansas State opponent.

La Salle played one of its best games of the season in its first round tournament win over Boise State Wednesday night.  Explorers fans rightfully celebrated the first tournament victory for the program in literally decades.  However, all that win really earned La Salle was the opportunity to pull up to the starting gate, where the field of 64 and true tournament begins.

The Explorers’ second round opponent is a battle-tested and highly efficient Kansas State Wildcats team.  At 27-7, the only teams the Wildcats have lost to are solid tournament teams Michigan, Gonzaga, Kansas, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State.  With not a bad loss in the bunch, Kansas State has no track record of playing down to its competition, which, unfortunately, is how most impartial observers would view La Salle.  Kansas State prefers to play the game at a very methodical tempo, falling in the bottom third among NCAA teams in terms of pace.  So although they are not an especially high scoring team in terms of raw points per game, their offensive efficiency numbers are actually very good.  The Wildcats share the ball and work for good shots as well as anyone, ranking 11th in the nation at 16.0 assists per game.

6’4″ senior Rodney McGruder leads the team in both scoring (15.7 ppg), and surprisingly, rebounding (5.4 rpg).  McGruder is especially tenacious on the offensive glass, averaging 2.11 offensive boards per game.  La Salle’s guards will have to be conscious of putting a body on him when a shot goes up.  That sort of crashing mentality is a team-wide philosophy for the Wildcats, as Kansas State as a team is top 15 in the country at 12.2 offensive rebounds per game.  This could prove to be a problem for the Explorers who rank only 226th nationally in defensive rebounding rate.  The other player to watch is 5’11” sophomore Angel Rodriguez, who controls the offense for much of the game for the Wildcats, averaging 11.7 points and a team-high 5.3 assists.

Kansas State comes in well-prepared for tournament action having gone through a difficult Big 12 schedule and playing tough out-of-conference games against Michigan, Gonzaga, and Florida.  Like La Salle, the Wildcats can hit the three ball, but unlike the Explorers, they don’t solely rely on it.  Kansas State is likely the most balanced and consistent opposition La Salle has faced this season.  It was nice that La Salle supporters had a couple days to bask in the glow of a tournament victory, but it looks like their run will end here.

Sixers Join Tanking Cause in Final Minutes

M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank Clip Art

Those fans in favor of tanking received a late unexpected surprise.

As much as Wednesday night’s game could have been construed as a ‘schedule loss’ ahead of time, Philadelphia had some trends on their side heading into play.  Denver’s starting point guard Ty Lawson was ruled out with a bruised heel suffered in Tuesday night’s game at Oklahoma City, while key rotational player Wilson Chandler also sat out with a shoulder injury.  For a while, it looked like the Sixers would pull off the unlikely and hand Denver only their fourth defeat at home this season.  However, down the stretch, it seemed like the voices of a segment of Sixers fans calling for losses and a higher draft pick were finally heard.  Or, Philadelphia was just interested in finding a new and exciting way to lose a game during this disappointing season.  Either way, the final moments of the game were a painful look at how not to secure a win in the NBA.

Philadelphia was up eight with 2 minutes to play but allowed the Nuggets to chip away at that lead to bring the game within striking distance in the closing seconds.  Leading by two with under ten seconds left, Evan Turner stepped to the line and promptly missed two free throws.  On the ensuing posession, Corey Brewer threw up a wild three but Damien Wilkins made the boneheaded move to foul him on the follow-through.  Brewer would sink all three free throws to put Denver ahead, 101-100.  Doug Collins called a time-out to draw up a play for the game-winning shot; however, either the players didn’t execute properly or the play was for a Damien Wilkins 21-footer surrounded by two defenders.  The partially blocked shot never even reached the rim as Philadelphia lost its 15th straight game on the road.

Prior to the catastrophic ending, the Sixers received some excellent efforts along the way.  Spencer Hawes continued what has been a couple weeks of outstanding performances, putting up 17 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks, before fouling out of the game with two minutes left.  I think someone forgot to tell Hawes he signed a two-year deal because he’s playing out the end of this season like it’s a contract year.  Jrue Holiday scored 18 points and recorded a career-high-tying 15 assists.  Damien Wilkins actually played an excellent game, scoring a season-high 24 points, but all fans will remember from his night is the terrible foul on Brewer that ultimately cost the Sixers the game.

WIth the injury to Lawson, the starting backcourt for Denver was comprised of former Sixers as Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala both had solid outings with 21 and 13 points, respectively.  Even so, the man that stole the show was Corey Brewer, who came off the bench to score a game-high 29 points and 5 steals.  At one point, he was seen yelling to the Sixers bench ‘You can’t guard me’. Unfortunately for Sixers fans, those words were prophetic as Brewer hit a number of big shots down the stretch including the game-winning free throws.

Following the game, Comcast’s Molly Sullivan interviewed Andre Iguodala about his thoughts on the game; this interview was an odd change as usually she doesn’t interview a member of the opposing team.  Maybe it was just due to the fact that Iguodala was a member of the Sixers for such a long portion of his career.  Or maybe no Sixer wanted to put into words just how disappointing a loss he experienced tonight.  Honestly, I hope it was the latter, at least that would show they cared.

#9 Temple vs. #8 NC State NCAA 2nd Round Game Preview

It's been a long time since Temple experienced some postseason glory.

It’s been a long time since Temple experienced some postseason glory.

The Temple Owls kick off their 2013 NCAA tournament Friday afternoon, looking to end a recent string of poor tournament showings.  The Owls have been knocked out in the first round 4 of the past 5 years, with their lone victory a 2-point win over an inferior Penn State team.  To end that stretch of poor play, the Owls will have to go through a talented but inconsistent North Carolina State squad.

The Wolfpack are an incredibly efficient offensive team, rated 11th in the nation on that side of the ball, while shooting 49.4% (5th best nationally).  However, the downfall for them this season, and the reason they did not reach their lofty expectations, has been a lack of commitment on the defensive end.  Temple fits a similar profile, with the Owls also performing much better scoring the rock than stopping the opposition.  However, unlike the Owls, NC State does not rely on the three ball, among the lowest in the nation at only 5.3 made threes per game.  The Wolfpack do the bulk of their damage on the inside behind 6’9″ Junior C.J. Leslie and 6’8″ Senior Richard Howell (12.7 ppg and 10.7 rpg).  Temple’s Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Anthony Lee will have their hands full defending the paint against that duo.

Despite its shortcomings defensively, one thing NC State does well is limit its opponents to just 29.9% from behind the arc, good for 18th in the nation.  The main reason behind this is the incredible size on the roster, with all five starters ranging in height from 6’5″ to 6’9″.  With that much length on the perimeter, the Wolfpack can cover a lot of ground and challenge nearly every shot.  This aspect of their opponent could spell trouble for an Owls’ team that relies so heavily on outside shooting.  Khalif Wyatt, especially, may struggle as he generally uses his size and strength to take advantage of smaller guards defending him, which will not be the case here.

Ultimately, the Wolfpack appear to be a terrible match-up for the Owls.  North Carolina State has the size and length to negate the Temple perimeter attack, and the Owls are not built to bang with aggressive scorers in the paint.  Unfortunately for Owls fans, it looks like the bad stretch of tournament showings may continue this year.

Sixers @ Nuggets Game Preview (3/21/13)

The Sixers will run into a buzzsaw as they travel to Denver.

Following a blow-out loss to the Clippers Tuesday night, Philadelphia will board a quick flight to Denver to take on the Nuggets.  Unfortunately for the Sixers, Denver is tied with Miami for the best home record in the NBA at 30-3.  The Nuggets play at the second fastest pace in the NBA, using a deep roster of quick, rangy wing players to jump the passing lanes and get out in the open court.  The mile-high altitude makes this style of play even more dangerous when the Nuggets are at home, as opponents find it even more difficult to keep up with Denver at the Pepsi Center.

Denver has played exceptionally well of late, with Miami’s historic winning streak overshadowing the fact that the Nuggets are on a run of 13 straight of their own.  The run has propelled them into a three-way tie for the 3rd seed in the Western Conference.  Denver knows how valuable home court advantage in the playoffs will be given their dominance at home and are unlikely to take any game lightly.  Denver’s last game was an impressive road over the Thunder; the Nuggets have seemingly figured out things on the defensive end, as their 98.6 defensive rating during the win streak would rank 3rd best in the NBA over the course of the season.  If Denver has figured out things on that end of the floor, the rest of the league should be on watch.

The Sixers defeated Denver in the opening game of the season, but that was a completely different Denver team that was without an injured Danilo Gallinari and still learning how to play with new acquisition Andre Iguodala.  The Nuggets have all hands on deck and Iguodala is putting up his usual stat-stuffing numbers at 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game.  Look for him to step up to try and earn his first win against his former team.

Keys to the Game:

  • Limit the turnovers. If the Sixers hold on to the ball like they did last night in Los Angeles, they’ll be blown off the court.  The way to beat Denver is to prevent them from getting out on the fast break and force them to score out of their half court sets, where they can struggle at times.
  • Keep Denver off the offensive glass.  Denver has the 2nd highest offensive rebounding rate in the league, led by Kenneth Faried and Kosta Koufos.  Thad Young, especially, will need to concentrate on that area of the game to deal with the strength and tenacity of Faried.

Prediction:

Denver is far too dangerous at home, and Philadelphia struggles far too much on the road, for the Sixers to pull out a victory on the tail end of a back-to-back.  Andre Iguodala tallies a near-triple-double against his old team as the Nuggets cruise to a victory.

Sixers Snapped Back to Reality

The Sixers took the red pill and awoke to a harsh reality.

If ever the Sixers were going to beat the Clippers on the road, it was last night.  Los Angeles was coming off a bad loss to Sacramento the night before in which their starters logged a ton of minutes, two key rotation players in Chauncey Billups and Eric Bledsoe were ruled out with lingering injuries, and Philadelphia came in rested following its best week of play all season.  Alas, the alarm clock went off and the Sixers awoke from whatever dream state they had been playing under recently in a 101-72 loss.  Welcome back, 2012-13 Sixers.

Los Angeles came out with an effective strategy, aggressively trapping Jrue Holiday and forcing the ball out of his hands whenever possible.  The young all-star looked flustered by it all evening, shooting just 1-8 for a season-low 2 points, and recording just 4 assists against 4 turnovers.  As Philadelphia fans have seen this season, as Holiday goes, so go the Sixers, and last night was no different.  Without him taking control of the offense, the entire team reverted to hoisting ill-advised jumpers and making sloppy passes.  The Sixers committed 19 turnovers and shot just 36.7% from the field; those numbers aren’t going to bring back a win even against the dregs of the league.

Defensively, the Sixers had no answer for Chris Paul.  The perennial all-star showcased his ability to get anywhere he wanted on the floor, finishing with a game-high 19 points on 8-10 shooting, to go along with 6 rebounds and 9 assists.  Paul also spearheaded the Clippers’ trapping defense, as the NBA steals leaders recorded 5 more to round out another excellent effort.  Philadelphia was also badly outplayed by the Clippers’ bench.  Last season, the Sixers showcased their ‘night shift’ bench unit, regularly sending guys like Lou Williams and Thad Young into the game to lead the team back from some deficit.  However, this season, Philadelphia just doesn’t have that scoring punch off the bench, whereas the Clippers second unit is as good as any in the league, featuring Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, etc.  On a night where the starters weren’t getting it done for Philadelphia, the bench just made things worse.

The Sixers will continue their road trip tonight in Denver.  Based on the situation and Philadelphia’s performance in last night’s game, the pro-tanking crowd will likely be pleased.

Explorers Find Their Way Into the Second Round

Fire Flames Clip Art

The Explorers were on fire from the field in dispatching the Broncos.

After going over two decades without playing in an NCAA tournament game, La Salle was determined not to wait nearly as long for the next one.  The Explorers defeated Boise State 80-71 to advance to Friday’s second-round game against Kansas State.  As ESPN Stats & Info reported, it’s been a long time since La Salle experienced success at this level and Explorers fans reveled in the win like the team had won a title, not just a game to reach the field of 64.

On the 59th anniversary of its 1954 national title, La Salle gets its first NCAA Tournament win since 1990.

The Explorers scored at will against a porous Boise State defense, finishing the game 63.3% from the field, including 11-21 from behind the arc.  Tyrone Garland came off the bench to lead the way for the Explorers with 22 points on outstanding 9-11 shooting.  Ramon Galloway and Sam Mills also totaled 36 points on a combined 8-12 three-point shooting.  La Salle did an excellent job taking care of the ball, as they didn’t commit a single turnover until there were eight minutes left in the first quarter.  By that point, the Explorers were already up 11 points; with the way they were shooting the ball, that lead was more than enough for them to cruise to an easy victory.

For Boise State, the Aussie Anthony Drmic did everything he could to keep the Broncos in the game.  Drmic recorded a game-high 28 points, finishing 9-17 from the field and 5-10 from behind the arc.  Unfortunately for Boise State, it’s difficult to chip away at a lead when you can’t get a defensive stop as La Salle never let the lead drop below 5 points in the second half.  With the first round games now out of the way, the real field of 64 can get underway.  The Explorers will look to keep their hot shooting going against a vastly superior Kansas State opponent.

 

#9 Villanova vs. #8 North Carolina NCAA 2nd Round Game Preview

The Wildcats will look to avenge 2 recent tournament losses to the Tar Heels.

In their opening game of the NCAA tournament, Villanova takes on a familiar nemesis in the North Carolina Tar Heels.  These two programs have met twice in the NCAA tournament fairly recently.  Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansborough led a stacked Tar Heels squad as they handily defeated the Wildcats in the 2009 Final Four, on their way to a national championship victory over Michigan State.  The game that really sticks in the craw of Villanova fans across the country, though, was the Sweet 16 matchup in 2005.  It looked like the quirky four-guard line-up of Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Mike Nardi, and Kyle Lowry would take down the #1 Tar Heels, until a controversial traveling call against Ray in the final minute extinguished the last hope for a Wildcats victory.  Once again, the road through to a national championship for North Carolina had led through Villanova.  The current versions of these two teams are not as highly-touted as in those past meetings, but the action should be no less intense.

Without a dominant interior presence, Roy Williams made the great coaching decision to build his team’s philosophy around getting out in the open court and shooting the deep ball.  The Tar Heels thrive on the transition game, ranking among the 20 fastest paced teams in the country, and rely heavily on the three point game, averaging 22 points per game on three pointers.  North Carolina features a trio of players averaging double figures on the season in James McAdoo (14.4 ppg), P.J. Hairston (14.3 ppg), and Reggie Bullock (14.2 ppg).  After their mediocre start to the season, North Carolina has hit their stride down the stretch, going 8-2 in their last 10 games. The biggest reason for the recent surge has been Hairston, who has taken his game to another level in recent weeks.  In the last 10 games, Hairston has reached double figures in every contest while averaging 17.6 points and 3.2 made threes per game.

North Carolina’s excellence behind the arc directly exploits the Wildcats’ biggest weakness, as Villanova ranked just 289th in the nation in allowing opponents to make 7.0 threes per game.  Villanova fans learned time and again this season (especially in the recent Seton Hall loss), that no matter how well the team grinds out points from the free throw line, it doesn’t matter if they give up points from downtown on their other end.  Villanova has beaten a number of teams of North Carolina’s caliber this season but it was almost always within the friendly confines of the Pavilion or the Wells Fargo Center where the Wildcats were a much better team this season.  In Kansas City, where there’s likely to be a larger partisan crowd for the Tar Heels, the offensive firepower for North Carolina will be too much to overcome.  The Tar Heels use their long distance barrage to take down the Wildcats.

Sixers @ Clippers Game Preview (3/20/13)

The Sixers hit the road Wednesday night, where they’ve struggled as much as any team in the NBA.

Philadelphia travels to Los Angeles coming off its best stretch of basketball all season.  In the span of 8 days, they defeated two playoff teams in Brooklyn and Indiana, one scrappy playoff contender in Portland, and took the world champion Miami Heat down to the wire in a four-point loss.  However, all of that recent success came at home in the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center.  If the Sixers want to earn only their 5th 3-game winning streak of the season, they’ll have to do so in front of a raucous Staples Center crowd.  Unfortunately, the road has not been a welcoming place to Philadelphia this season, as the team’s 6 road wins (6-23 road record) are tied for the lowest among all NBA teams.

As if the situation on the road weren’t bad enough, the Sixers will have to take on a talented Clippers team which defeated them soundly in Philadelphia last month, in a game Los Angeles led by as many as 30 points.  Every game right now is crucial for the Clippers’ playoff seeding, as Los Angeles is currently in a dogfight with the Grizzlies and Nuggets for the 3rd and 4th seeds, and corresponding home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.  Los Angeles is as well-rounded as any team in the league as they boast top ten ratings in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  Point guard Chris Paul would be an easy MVP candidate in a world where LeBron James and Kevin Durant weren’t having historically great seasons.  Paul is averaging 16.6 ppg on 48.3% shooting, ranks first among active players in assists per gameleads the league in steals per game, and is tied for the league lead in identical twin brothers with the Lopez brothers (the Morris twins are actually fraternal).

Other than having the best point guard in the game running the team, Los Angeles also features all-star big man Blake Griffin.  On top of his highlight-reel dunks and humorous Kia Optima commericals, Griffin has taken great steps this season to become a more complete player.  To complement his excellent finishing around the rim and rebounding, Griffin has also improved his free throw shooting (up to 65.4% from 52.1% last season) and become a more active defender (career-high 1.3 steals per game).  With an overall statistical profile that ranks top ten in the NBA this season, Griffin has proved he’s more than just a one-trick pony.

Besides their two stars, Los Angeles’ depth is truly staggering and their second unit blows opposing benches out of the water on many occasions.  Eric Bledsoe was one of the most coveted trade pieces at the deadline and would start for most NBA teams, but Los Angeles decided to hold on to him to continue backing up Chris Paul.  The Clippers have veteran, former all-stars like Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, and Grant Hill, working as role players to help round out a deep, 9-man rotation.

Keys to the Game:

  • Attack the basket.  Los Angeles is very prone to fouling as they are the second-worst team in the league in opposing free throw attempt rate.  Although it’s a weak part of Philadelphia’s game, they should try to earn trips to charity stripe to get some easy points.
  • Hold on to the basketball.  Led by the thieving Paul, the Clippers lead the league in opposing turnover percentage.  Los Angeles loves to get out in transition and showcase the ‘Lob City’ dunks that are all over Sportscenter.  Philadelphia needs to channel the 2011-12 Sixers and limit the turnovers.

Prediction: The Clippers are simply too talented a team for Philadelphia to try and break out of their shell on the road.  As good as Jrue Holiday has been playing lately, the best point guard on the floor Wednesday night will have the word Clippers written on his chest.  Although the Sixers enter play rested and Los Angeles lost Tuesday night in Sacramento, I feel the loss to the lowly King might just serve to make the Clippers angry.  Chris Paul leads a loaded Los Angeles team to victory, ending the Sixers’ modest two game winning streak.

Hawks Get Caught In a Red Storm

Brown Brick Retaining Wall Texture - Free High Resolution Photo

Some serious brick-laying led to a huge second half collapse for the Hawks.

Things started out well for St. Joseph’s in their NIT opener.  Carl Jones and Langston Galloway were hitting from the floor, scoring 23 of the 32 Hawks points in the first half.  St. Joseph’s was out-shooting and out-rebounding the Red Storm, and only 9 first-half turnovers by the Hawks kept the halftime lead at a modest six points.

The Hawks continued to build their lead in the second half, as Carl Jones remained hot, finishing with a game-high 21 points.  However, St. Joseph’s began to fall in love with the jump shot and stopped attacked the rim.  The poor shot selection initiated a stretch where the Hawks shot just 2 for their next 19 from the field, as they went over 5 minutes without scoring a single point.  St. John’s took advantage, as the Red Storm went on a 20-5 run to take a four point lead with 2 minutes left.

Down the stretch of the game is when things really got interesting.  With nine seconds left and the Hawks down two, Phil Martelli took a timeout and drew up a fantastic play.   With the Red Storm focusing on Jones and Galloway, Ronald Roberts, Jr. went off a nice back screen by Galloway to receive a wide open pass under the basket.  He was fouled to prevent the easy lay-in, and hit both free throws to tie the game.  However, the Hawks seemed to fall asleep defensively, allowing Sir’Dominic Pointer to dribble the length of the court and get off a fall-away 15-footer at the buzzer. Pointer’s shot went in and the Red Storm celebrated their first win in a month in front of a stunned St. Joseph’s crowd.  Final score, 63-61.

The second half collapse was a fitting ending to a disappointing season for the Hawks.  St. Joseph’s had a load of talent and played well at times, but often struggled to put it together for a full 40 minutes against tough competition.  Among the key rotational players, only Carl Jones will be graduating, so hopefully the rest of the Hawks use this brutal loss as a learning experience going into next season.