Philadelphia, PA – The Saint Joe’s Hawks beat the UMass Minutemen, 74-68, on Saturday 1/21. Saint Joe’s was led by guards Erik Reynolds II and Cameron Brown, who each finished the game with 23 and 25 points respectively.
For Saint Joe’s, this was a game of two halves, two halves that were almost identical in nature. Both the first, and second, started out in what looked like a street fight. Both teams struggled to find shots and get points on the board. Yet, in each one, Saint Joe’s found a way to string a 10+ point run in order to pull away from the Minutemen. To UMass’s credit, they did start the second half strong, and closed the gap from the first half to take the lead at the 13 minute mark. However, they were quickly subdued by Saint Joe’s in a big run, one that secured another win for SJU in what is now a three game win streak.
The First Half
As stated, the first 20 minutes of this game started out as a street fight, with both teams struggling to find the basket. However, at the 7 minute mark, when the score was 21 to 24 in UMass’s favor, SJU took control and went on a 17 point scoring spree.
Led by the efforts of Cameron Brown and Erik Reynolds, the Hawks locked down on defense and exposed their opponents’ offense. The Hawks made the right play every time in the half court. They found very gap in Umass’s defense, and scored on almost every play during those four minutes. They also forced UMass to make multiple mistakes. Reach in fouls, errant passes, and tie ups all resulted in turnovers for UMass and extra scoring opportunities for the Hawks. Thanks to this effort, SJU headed into half time with a 43-36 lead, leaving fans wondering if they could continue at this pace?
The Second Half
Sadly, the concern of Saint Joe’s fans were realized, as UMass quickly opened the half on a 10 point scoring run, tying the game at 48 point after 5 minutes. However, just like in the first half, Saint Joe’s was able to respond, they accumulated a 62-52 lead with ten minutes to go and were able to hold on for the win.
One thing to note was the Hawks ability to close out the game. With 1:30 to go, Freshman Christian Winborne had a huge layup which kept Saint Joe’s up by 6 points. UMass did respond with a quick basket, only for Erik Reynolds II to come down the floor on the next possession and find a wide open Kacper Klaczek, who finished off the play with a 3 point shot that sealed the deal for the Hawks.
They Hawks Are Learning How to Win
On the last episode of the Hawk Talk Podcast, a Saint Joe’s basketball podcast I co-host, I mentioned the fact that the program has lost the tacit knowledge on how to win games. In fact, I even wrote about that very subject on A10 Talk as well. However, today’s win was one where SJU looks to be reversing that. As mentioned, this was Saint Joe’s 3rd win in a row, the longest of this season. It’s also Coach Lange’s longest A10 streak since 2020-21, where the Hawks beat La Salle, Dayton and URI in that order.
The final sequence of play highlights this best. When the game was still close, and UMass had a chance to come back, Saint Joe’s locked down and made the right play. Winborne and Klaczek, two players who hadn’t been as hot as Brown and Reynolds, stepped up and made the shots they needed too. Everyone on the team played their part, let’s not forget the early points from Greer when scoring was hard to come by. Saint Joe’s is slowly learning how to win, and I can only hope that they continue to build off this momentum. I have been down on this team all year, but there is nothing I would love more than for them to make me eat my words and continue to win.
The Hawks will travel to George Washington this Wednesday, 1/25/2023. The game will be aired on ESPN+ at 7:00pm EST.