The Saint Joseph’s Hawks (6-9, 0-3) fell to the Fordham Rams (13-3, 1-2) yesterday (1/8), 66-54, at Rose Hill Gym. After trading the lead for the majority of the first half, the Fordham Rams were able to ratchet up their defense and slowly pull away from the Hawks with 10 minutes to go.
At the start, Saint Joseph’s had come out on a hot streak, jumping to an early 21-9 lead in the first 7 minutes of play. However, when it mattered most, the offense that had quickly grew a 12 point lead earlier, disappeared, and could only score 9 points in the final 10 minutes of play. As mentioned, this was in part to Fordham’s increase in defensive intensity, however, the poor performance was all due in part to Saint Joe’s poor play as well.
Usually, when Saint Joe’s gives up this type of run, it is in part due to turnovers as ball security has historically been a problem under Coach Lange. However, yesterday’s loss was because of poor shot selection and rebounding. Saint Joe’s didn’t lose the game from sloppy mistakes, like when they played FDU. Instead, they could not execute rudimentary basketball tasks, like rebounding, or getting someone open for a shot. Fordham didn’t allow easy points and stuck with their defensive assignments, nothing too special. Yet, that was enough to throw the Hawks scheme into disarray.
Nothing illustrates this breakdown in scoring more than Point Guard Erik Reynolds. Reynolds, who is SJU’s best player, started out the game well, scoring the team’s first 8 points and even finished the game with 17 points. But when the team needed him most, he was nowhere to be found, only contributing four points in the second half. He is Saint Joe’s best shot creator, and yet just like the rest of the team, couldn’t score when it was needed.
This was a critical loss for Saint Joe’s. After a tough draw of SLU and Dayton to start A-10 play, the next three games, starting with Fordham, were imperative to win. This is a young team that does not know how to win, the longer the A-10 losing streak continues, the harder it will become to win conference games as the season progresses. They are not going to wake up in late January and go on an eight game winning streak. They need to string small streaks together and learn how to win against opponents in their weight class. So far, they have shown to be unable to do that.
Reclaiming Tacit Knowledge
Finally, this loss is a symptom of the bigger issue with the program. Saint Joe’s has no tacit knowledge of how to win, it walked out the door 5 years ago, and they have never reclaimed it back. When the game is on the line, they make the wrong decision every time. They fold and go to what they are comfortable with, shooting 3’s, which is never a winning strategy. There are no team members, Coaches, or administrators, who know what winning looks and feels like. In addition, there is a total disconnect from the great coaching tree that was Saint Joe’s basketball for over 50 years. The old cliché is correct, winning is contagious, but so is losing, and this team is stricken with the latter with no knowledge of the cure.
What makes this even more frustrating is that the team does have talented players. The regime knows how to make a splash with recruiting, and I am happy for it, but at some point it has to translate to the court. The recruiting ability of this school should be a point of pride. In the landscape of modern college basketball it is not an easy task to attract 4 star talent at a school like SJU. But, what is the point of great recruiting, and even having players good enough to go to the NBA, if the coaching staff doesn’t know how to utilize the talent while they are in a Saint Joe’s uniform? Recruiting is important, but there is one thing that matters most, winning.
All of this to say that the loss against Fordham is an indication that Saint Joe’s chance to improve from last year is quickly dwindling. The program has caught the contagious illness known as losing, and it may be terminal. What we saw on the court today is just a symptom of the greater issue, and sadly, I don’t see the school administering the remedy we need anytime soon.