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Hard Times on Hawk Hill, La Salle Forces Saint Joe’s into a Second Half Meltdown

Philadelphia, PA – The La Salle Explorers trounced the Saint Joseph’s Hawks after a stellar second half performance, winning the game by a score of 75-64. Heading into halftime La Salle was down 33-24 on the road in Hagan arena. The Explorers proceeded to come out of the locker room and out score SJU 51-31 in the second half, thanks mostly in part to the play of Jack Clark. 

Clark made four three pointers within the first ten minutes of play in the second half. He also finished the game with 21 points on 7-15 shooting as well. Clark’s three point shots were a defining moment in the game, not only did they help La Salle makeup a deficit, but they set the team up for a massive run. Once the Explorers gained the lead they never looked back, coasting to an impressive road victory. 

La Salle Played to Their Strength 

La Salle deserves all the credit they get for this win. They walked into the locker room down to a team that had found a nice rhythm to close the first half. However, Coach Howard adjusted and had La Salle play to their strength of defense and grit. La Salle isn’t a flashy team; they aren’t a team led by a single star. Yet, what they do well is play good hard defense and that is exactly what they did. From the start of the second half La Salle was aggressive and constantly in the face of Saint Joe’s players. 

Sure, this strategy meant more fouls for La Salle, as they found themselves in the bonus early in the second half. But, it paid it off in the end as their defense disrupted the rhythm of Saint Joe’s with steals that led to easy baskets. La Salle forced eight turnovers in the second half, with seven coming from steals. In addition, La Salle outrebounded Saint Joe’s 23-11, they grabbed as many second chance opportunities as possible in the final 20 minutes of play. 

As I had stated in my preview, this game was about securing the ball by both getting rebounds and minimizing turnovers. La Salle did just that. They generated easy baskets off steals and rebounds, stopped Saint Joe’s dead in its tracks on offense, and had an overall tone of aggression and focus which the Hawks clearly could not match.

Give credit to the Explorers, while Saint Joe’s did have a meltdown, it was due in large part to the adjustments Coach Howard was able to make at halftime.

Another Terrible Second Half for Saint Joe’s

As much as this game is a credit to Coach Howard, and the resiliency of the Explorers, this game rests equally on the shoulders of Coach Lange and the Hawks. La Salle had nothing to lose, their only option was to be aggressive in order to close a 14 point deficit. Their offense couldn’t manufacture any points in the first half, and the only way they would increase their scoring is to generate points off turnovers. 

Coach Lange made no adjustments for that possibility and Saint Joe’s paid the price. The team couldn’t even make adjustments to free up Taylor Funk for open looks as the red shirt senior disappeared in the second half. The Clifton Moore and Taylor Funk matchup was a blessing and curse for SJU. Yes, Moore was bigger and could back down Funk, but Funk should be faster. He can stretch the floor against the predominantly post player in Moore.  Instead, Funk was silent in the second half with no effort by the team to exploit the mismatch to Saint Joe’s benefit. 

In addition, the drive and kick has stayed well past its welcome for Saint Joe’s. Too many times SJU had players shy away from taking a ball to the rim, kicking it out while halfway to the basket. Most of those kick outs resulted in steals as La Salle hounded the passing lanes. Finally, and not to put too fine of a point, but a few stats which show the flaw in this team. These include Saint Joe’s 13 turnovers to La Salle’s 9. SJU also shot 52% from the free throw line while La Salle shot 81%. Also, Saint Joe’s was outrebounded 34-43 as well. The stats don’t tell the entire story, but get pretty close to it. 

As coach you need to be able to prepare the team for what the Explorers did. Instead, La Salle executed their plan while Saint Joe’s wilted away with no life or energy to be seen. Unfortunately, this isn’t a first for the Hawks. Time and again Saint Joe’s has found rhythm to close the first half, only to disappear at the start of the second half. What could they possibly be doing in the lockeroom?

It is evident that this team lacks a leader. Yes, Coach Lange should be the leader of this team, and the bucks stops at him. But, every team that succeeds has two leaders, the coach and a player who represents and ‘buys in’ on behalf of his teammates. Coach Lange appears to be unable to get a response out of this team, and it is only compounded by the fact that you can not pick out who the captain of this sinking ship is. Last year, it was unquestionably Ryan Daly. The buck stopped with him and he visibly kept his teammates accountable. This year, there is no one in that role, and I am not sure who would even fill it at this point. 

Evolution not Revolution, Right?

Personally, I have received a lot of flak for defending Coach Lange over the last three years, which is fine; people are welcome to say so. But, I think I have made it clear that the reason I defended him was not because he is a genius play caller or coach. Yes, his recruiting is great and is a bonus, but that isn’t the reason I was hesitant to call for a change. 

I wasn’t willing to call for his job because I think having quick turnover with coaches isn’t good for the program. I would rather tough it out for 3-5 years with Coach Lange than get the school into a coaching carousel. Maybe it’s because I was dragged to some many Jets games by my father as a young boy, but I have seen what bad management looks like; they have high turnover and no identity. Quite frankly, successful programs prefer to be conservative with change than use snap judgment, think evolution not revolution.

With that said, I am sure many reading this are screaming that the firing of Martelli was a ‘snap’ judgment. However, Coach Martelli was here for 20+ years, I think the school had a right to move on from him at some point. The problem at the time was, as it is now, who was going to replace him? It is easy to say “fire the coach”, but it’s more difficult to figure out the plan of where to go from here. Who will we interview? How long will the next rebuild take? What happens if everyone transfers out again? Can we wait another three years? What scheme do we want to run, and will recruits actually want to play that scheme? 

It’s easy to blame and demand “change”, whatever that happens to mean for a fan. But, if we are going to get rid of Coach Lange, and if that is your belief so be it, should we not hold the Athletic Director or President accountable? 

Lange is only a symptom of the broader problem with the program if things are as bad as people say they are. Are we ready to not only put a basketball program in turmoil, but the entire University? This administration hired Lange, what makes you think their second selection will be better? Does that mean the administration should be fired as well? It is a valid question if you truly want to get to the heart of the problem. 

Personally, I don’t have the answers, I never claimed to have them. It’s why I have held off on demanding for change. However, if that is the road we are going down, so be it, I’ll still be sitting in section 107 no matter where we go.

Like the coverage and want more? Follow me on twitter (@Jelly_Morelli) and check out my Saint Joe’s podcast, Hawk Talk! (@HawkTalkSJU)

A former D1 Athlete at Saint Joe's, Tony has earned both Undergrad and Graduate degrees from SJU. As an athlete, he was apart of a A10 team title. As ...