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Saint Joe’s Week 2: Drexel Recap and Monmouth Preview

The Saint Joseph’s Hawks lost a heartbreaking game to the Drexel Dragons, 78 to 75, this past Wednesday (11/17). Saint Joseph’s had a chance to tie the game with a few seconds left, thanks to an open go ahead layup attempt from Jordan Hall. Unfortunately, Hall missed the wide open layup leaving the Hawks down by two with time expiring. The Hawks had no other option than to foul and by then the game was all but lost . Drexel hit their free throws with only a few seconds left to solidify their lead and win the game.

Saint Joe’s was led by Taylor Funk, Erik Reynolds II, and Jordan Hall who all finished within double digit scoring. Jordan Hall had his best game of this young season. He led the team with 20 points on 67% shooting from within the three point arc. Hall also had seven rebounds and six assists to finish the game. Erik Reynolds also had a breakout game scoring 13 points, majority of which came off his 6 for 7 free throw shooting. Those free throws would turn out to be critical as they ultimately helped Saint Joe’s close an eight point deficit in the second half. 

On the other end of the court, the Drexel Dragons were led by Senior Camren Wynter and graduate student James butler. Wynter finished the game with 22 points on 8 for 18 shooting. Wynter also finished the game with four rebounds and six assists. Throughout the game Wynter completed numerous contested shots. Every time Drexel needed a tough bucket they went to Wynter, who had to score on a feisty Dahmir Bishop. Bishop hounded Wynter all game long, picking him up as soon as the ball was inbounded. However, that would not be enough as Wynter continued to score with multiple defenders in his face. In addition to Wynter’s performance, Drexel’s James Butler finished the game with a double double, totaling 23 points and 11 rebounds. 

Reflections on Drexel v. Saint Joe’s

While many Saint Joe’s fans proceeded to cry that sky was falling because of this loss, there is some context is to this game that is worth considering. The first is that Drexel is a decent team. They returned everyone from last year, a roster that was able to win the CAA. Drexel also has legitimate size with two centers who are 6’11 and above. Finally, Camren Wynter couldn’t miss a shot. Give him credit, this was SJU’s best defensive game this year, and he still scored in traffic every time that Drexel needed a basket.

In the end, Saint Joe lost because they continued to make numerous mistakes in the game. They led their opponents in both fouls and turnovers. Stats which clearly impacted the outcome of a game where the winning margin is only three points.  While the loss does sting, it isn’t the end of the world. Drexel is attempting to build a legitimate program and expand the Big 5 into the City 6, as I discussed with assistant coach Justin Jennings on the last Hawk Talk Podcast. If Drexel keeps building momentum, and winning the CAA, they will continue to be a tough opponent on Saint Joe’s non-con schedule every year. 

Finally, Saint Joe’s did have some positives fans can take away. The first is that Erik Reynolds II can run the half court offense for this team. This game was a small coming out party for Reynolds who continued to hit critical free throws throughout the second half. In addition, it is clear that Reynolds has an easier time finding his way through the lane in the half court over Jordan Hall. Drexel deployed the same strategy that UMES did against Hall, placing a small quicker defender to cut him off in the half court. Reynolds has a much quicker first step thanks to his size. His quickness makes him much more effective in the half court when the ball is in his hands. For Hall his size and court vision make him more effective in transition. Saint Joe’s has two ball handlers who are good a different things. This can be a good asset if we know when to deploy each offensive style.

However, this raises a critical issue for Saint Joe’s. The Hawks are towards the bottom of the A10 in pace this year, a first in the Lange era. From attending the games one can tell this, as after every rebound Jordan Hall runs up and hits the breaks as soon as he crosses half court.  I was critical of Coach Lange for pushing the  ball too much, but there seems to be an over correction here. Saint Joe’s needs to find balance and utilize both half court offense as well as transition scoring. That way Saint Joe’s can utilize the talents of both ball handlers in Hall and Reynolds.

Monmouth Preview

Monmouth enters today’s game with a 2-1 record, with wins against Towson and Leigh. Monmouth’s only loss of the season occurred against Charlotte, where Monmouth fell 66-68. Monmouth is led by graduate student, and UNC transfer, Walker Miller who stands at 6-11, 230 pounds. Walker will be top of mind for Saint Joe’s this Saturday as Coach Lange and his staff will need to find a way to stop Miller from putting Obinna in foul trouble. The Hawks of Saint Joe’s will need to avoid early fouls. This may be hard as Monmouth is one of the best teams in the country at both getting to the foul line, and making free throws. If Saint Joe’s cannot stay out of foul trouble, we may see a scenario where Anton Jansson makes an appearance, as he did against Drexel. 

Saint Joe’s will look to bounce back from their loss to Drexel. With a skilled center like Monmouth’s Walker Miller on the court, Saint Joe’s should look to go pace and space with their offense. As mentioned before, SJU is on the low end of the A10 in pace. If they can increase that tempo it can help Funk find transition opportunities, something he can easily exploit a defense with. Not to mention it prevents the offense from being bogged down in the half court. Balance is key, and if Saint Joe’s can find balance with transition offense and half court sets it makes it that much hard for Monmouth to predict Saint Joe’s next move. In the end, Monmouth is another early test for the Hawks. Saint Joe’s must show that they can bounce back with force after tough loss, and show they can learn from their mistakes.

Saint Joe’s v. Monmouth tips off at 12:00pm today, 11/20.The will air on ESPN+.