There is only one thing that matters for Saint Joseph’s University Men’s Basketball, that is playing with heart. Sports is a form of entertainment, and that means perception is everything. If a team looks uninterested that will transfer to the fan base. Why should fans care about the game if the players aren’t even interested? If you have been reading my pieces throughout this season you will notice that this has been my main concern for Saint Joseph’s basketball. If the team always brought energy to the game, everything else they accomplished would just be a bonus. Let us go into what has been working well for SJU these past three games, and what has not.
SJU’s game against UConn was the very bonus I mentioned in the opening of this piece. SJU completed a major upset against UConn winning 96 to 87 over the Huskies. While the entire team really impressed, there were three people who stood out the most in this amazing win: Ryan Daly, Rahmir Moore, and Coach Billy Lange. Each one of these individuals went above and beyond the call to help deliver a win that no one expected. It is unprecedented that SJU beat UConn in a buy game as 15-point underdogs, and without those three people it would have never occurred.
The Coach: Billy Lange
Remind me again, who is Phil Martelli? You do not have to answer that question because the mainstream media loves to remind us in every SJU broadcast. Every national broadcast, including last Wednesday’s broadcast on CBS, commentators have a habit of bringing up Coach Martelli’s departure. It was because of this I thought it would be hard for Lange to receive any credit for his success since the media is always framing the team in the “Martelli” culture. But let’s not kid ourselves, Coach Billy Lange has stolen the show three games into the season. With a roster that is depleted compared to last year Coach Lange has already beaten better opponents than lasts year team did all season.
It was clear that Lange outcoached Hurley in last Wednesday’s game. Lange was able to prep his players to come out hard in a road game that was considered a throw away for SJU. He created a game plan that completely befuddled the Huskies and helped create a 17-point deficit at the half. It was brilliant what Coach Lange did by throwing a smaller lineup on the floor but switching from man to man to zone defense. The Hawks had not played in zone yet this season so there was no tape of them available for the Huskies to prep with. The small line created a mismatch for Douglas who was able to start the scoring run for the Hawks. Douglas ended with a solid 18 points by the end of the game. Lange’s utilization of the zone meant that the Hawks would have a ton of help defense to make up for the smaller players on the court.
The smaller lineup had benefits on the offensive side ball for the SJU as well. The larger and slower players of UConn could not keep any players in front of them. Ryan Daly had numerous open drives in the lane because the defenders could not shuffle their feet fast enough. Lange had found the formula for beating a much bigger team. While I do not believe that this would have worked if SJU had played like this earlier in the year. Lange took advantage of using a new strategy to catch a better team off guard and create a massive lead necessary to hold onto a road win. Hitting UConn on the nose with an unforeseen game plan helped to make the already small crowd a non-factor. It also created a confidence boost for SJU to play loose and confident, a deadly combination in sports. So, let me just say it, Lange outcoached Hurley.