Saint Joseph’s is scheduled to play Mount Saint Mary’s on Saturday, Nov 13th. Mount Saint Mary’s will face Saint Joe’s after losing to Villanova 51-91 and won against Washington College (MD) 117-62. The Mount is the returning NEC champion. They are also currently ranked 290 on the Kenpom College Basketball rankings. Mount Saint Mary’s is led by three seniors: Malik Jefferson, Nana Opoku and Mezie Offurum. The three led Mount Saint Mary’s in scoring against Villanova with Jefferson leading the stat chart with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist. This Saturday’s game will be the third for Mount Saint Mary’s this week, not to mention they have a quick turn around as they will play Kentucky on Nov 16th after facing the Saint Joe’s.
Saint Joe’s was Bailed Out
On the other side of the ball Saint Joseph’s opened the 2021-22 season with a 69-67 home win against the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES). After ending the first quarter with a 14 point lead, the Saint Joe’s Hawks allowed UMES to crawl back from their deficit to take a 47-46 lead with 12 minutes left in the game. The UMES Hawks shot 50% from the field in the second half and held Saint Joe’s to a dismal 29 points in the second half as well.
However, Saint Joe’s was bailed out of an embarrassing loss thanks to a Taylor Funk game winning three. Jordan Hall assisted Funk who made the corner three with only six second left on the clock. In addition to the game winning corner three, Taylor Funk was the main source of scoring for Saint Joe’s finishing the game with 22 points on 8-13 shooting. On top of this, Funk made six threes and shot 54% from beyond the arc. He also finished the game with seven rebounds and one block.
Saint Joe’s struggled against UMES for one important reason; Saint Joe’s lacked focus on both defense and offense. This was especially true for Jordan Hall, who throughout the game made mistakes on both ends of the court. First, Hall had three turnovers. In all honesty there could have been more turnover put to his name as some were attributed to his teammates like Obinna and Brown who received passes from Hall either too low or above their heads. Both Obinna and Brown were able to put their hands on the ball, and that is why they were attributed the turn over. However, in reality, it was because Hall didn’t put the ball in a spot that would allow his teammates to safely secure it.
Hall also had some trouble on defense as well. He was unable to keep the smaller opposing guard in front of him. Multiple times faster players were able to go by hall and go straight to the rim. At that point only Obinna could contest the shot. On the other end Hall also had a hard time going by opposing defenders. He could not get to the rim and did not have a quick enough first step to go around the smaller, faster guard defending him. Hall struggled, and his lack of focus and energy led to mistakes. It is incredible to think that even on an off night Jordan finished with 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 11 assist. However, triple doubles are only fun to talk about when they result in the team succeeding.
Intensity is the Recipe for Success
This team will win and lose games based on focus and intensity. This all starts with Jordan Hall. As I said, he struggled for the majority of the night shooting 33% from the field. However, when the game was on the line Jordan visibly turned up the energy. He scored five points in the last two minutes and assisted on two other critical baskets. He had his finger prints on every basket in the last two minutes of the game, which helped propel the Hawks to victory.
You can see when he turns up his focus. He changes the spots he attacks from on the floor. In the final two minutes when he played well he attacked the rim harder and didn’t settle for outside shots. He made sure that the passes he sent were on target and fast enough to avoid being intercepted defenders. He worked over screens that much harder. This team won’t win from Taylor Funk scoring a lot by himself. This team will win games from Taylor scoring and Hall bringing intensity to the court. Hall is critical to so many aspects of Saint Joe’s game that he needs to be on for the team to succeed.
Against UMES Saint Joe’s showed two sides. The first was a team that was better than UMES. They controlled the pace, had separation in the half court, and made smart plays with the ball. In the second half Saint Joe’s turned the ball over, lacked defensive awareness, and went back to the old style of passing the ball around the three point arc. Seriously, not one person was even running cuts on the baseline, they all just watched the ball stagnate on the outside.
All credit to UMES, they showed up and played really well. This team is better than bottom five of the NCAA, the very next day. in the second game of their back to back, UMES was tied with Temple for almost three quarters. At the end UMES had no gas the Owls pulled away, but still impressive for a team ranked so low. UMES is a program with a chip on their shoulder and when Saint Joe’s took the gas of the peddle on Tuesday UMES took advantage. Coach Lange needs to have this team focus for all 40 minutes of the game. Mount Saint Mary’s is a serious opponent and they will take advantage if Saint Joe’s falls asleep for more than two minutes. The question that remains is which Saint Joe’s team do we get on Saturday, the team from the first half of the UMES game, or the second?