(Philadelphia, PA) The Saint Joseph’s Hawks had another second half meltdown yesterday, their second one of the season against the La Salle Explorers. Saint Joe’s, up 36 to 24 at the half, came out of halftime to score only 12 points. This lack of scoring resulted in a debilitating 49-48 loss for the Hawks in the now infamous Tom Gola Arena.
La Salle Stand Outs
La Salle’s leading scorer was Jhamir Brickus, who finished the game with 10 points on 4 for 9 shooting. While Brickus was the points leader, the real hero of this game was undoubtedly center Clifton Moore. Moore was the defensive anchor for La Salle. He ended the game with 7 blocks and 10 rebounds.
Majority of Clifton Moore’s blocks were in the the final minutes of the game. Moore had four blocks in the final seven minutes of play. Two of those four were within the final minute of play, as Moore rejected game tying shots from both Taylor Funk and Ejike Obinna of Saint Joe’s.
With a final score as low as it was, defense was clearly the key for this game, and the Explorers executed it well. They were able to hold Saint Joe’s to 12 points in the second half, and forced a meltdown similar to their last matchup from January 17th.
Defense Wins the Day
Saint Joe’s scoring was shared between Ejikee Obinna and Jordan Hall. Obinna finished the game with 14 points on 5-14 shooting. Ejike was a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line and had 18 rebounds. Jordan Hall finished with 12 points and also grabbed 13 rebounds. The sophomore guard also had five assists, but those were negated by the 6 turnovers he had on the game.
As mentioned above, this was a defensive game. The refs held their whistles for the majority of the outing. This meant that combined there were only 13 free throws between both teams. However, after quick glance at the box score, what jumps out is that these teams were pretty even all night. Turnovers, shooting percentage, rebounds, shot attempts, and steals were all relatively close to one another. What divided this game was Saint Joe’s inability to manufacture points in the second half, and La Salle’s pure determination to not give up when down double digits.
The Signature Saint Joe’s Second Half Meltdown
I was lucky enough to be at the game tonight, and the first thing that caught my attention was the halftime show. Down 12, La Salle treated its fans to layup lines and warm up jumpers for the majority of halftime. Coach Howard had his guys back on the court, getting warmed up, with the Hawks nowhere in sight. Now, I am not stating this is in fact the reason why La Salle won. There is no way to prove causation for this. However, what it did show was the effort difference between these teams. Against: Davidson, Dayton, URI, Saint Bonaventure, La Salle (twice), UMES, Bradley, and George Mason Saint Joe’s went into halftime with a good rhythm only to come out stale.
The list of these types of close losses, where the offense stalls out, seems never ending. And yet, Saint Joe’s continues to do the same thing over and over again, with no end in sight. I am not saying getting in layup lines during halftime is the solution, but if the team came out and did that at least we could all point to a strategy that looked tangibly different to what had been done previously.
I’ll leave Saint Joe’s fans with this final painful stat. The Hawks controlled the lead for 35:44 minutes of this game, while La Salle only had the lead for 1:10. Instead of securing the win and playing with their foot on the gas, Saint Joe’s melted away and played to hold on to the lead rather than expand it. They allowed La Salle to crawl back, and when it came to the final minute of play, all the Hawks could manufacture was a Funk three point attempt. Which in turn, ended up becoming a failed drive to the basket by Funk, and a subsequent game ending block by La Salle’s Clifton Moore.
Time Has Run Out
For La Salle, this was a good win. Twice now they have come out against their rival and charged back to embarrass them. In addition, they are finding a nice groove heading into the A10 tournament. With a win against Dayton, and now Saint Joe’s, the Explorers will look to take this two game win streak and add on as they prepare for DC.
For Saint Joe’s, this is the last thing the program needed. This is the Hawks 7th loss in a row and second to their Big 5 rivals La Salle. Saint Joe’s is a long distance away from those wins against Temple, Penn and Richmond. There is no doubt the pressure is on for Coach Lange, even his supporters are finding it hard to defend the current status of the team. With things heading south, and only one game left in the regular season, who knows what the next steps will be for both the coaching staff and the overall administration.