SJU Falls to Richmond
The Saint Joe’s Hawks opened Atlantic 10 play with a 52 to 84 loss against the Richmond Spiders. This game was a prime opportunity for SJU to show that they used their two week break to improve their offensive scheme. Instead, Richmond was able to expose every single weakness the Hawks have. SJU shot 20% from beyond three, and 36% from the field. In contrast, Richmond showed what an effective half court offense should look like. The Spiders were able to surgically pick apart the Hawks and finished the game with a 47.7 Field Goal Percentage.
The Spiders were able to expose many of the problems we already knew about Saint Joe’s. First, turnovers have been a major issue for SJU. In last nights game against Richmond, the Hawks turned the ball over 21 times. In addition, the Hawks were exposed again from beyond the three point line. Three point shooting has been an emphasis of Coach Lange. Yet, this team has been the worst three point shooting team in the conference. Richmond displayed what excellent half court offensive schemes should look like. In contrast, SJU showed fans the chaotic downside to “Pace and Space” basketball.
The Trappings of “Pace and Space”
Saint Joe’s field goal percentage this season has 38.2%, and their three-point percentage is a dismal 30.5%. Both figures rank the lowest in the entire Atlantic 10 conference. Additionally, The Hawks also have the second lowest Offensive Rating and the worst Defensive Rating in the conference (Courtesy of Sports-reference.com). Every imaginable metric shows that SJU is the worst team in the Atlantic 10. This was expected at the beginning of the season.
However, there really was no reason for these numbers to be as bad as they are. I understand that this team is growing and learning. Yet, that doesn’t provide an excuse for the style of play the Hawks have carted out on the court all season long. “Pace and Space” basketball has been glamorized too much in popular basketball culture. There is nod doubt that when the pace and space style works a team can run opponents out of the gym. When things are going well, the Pace and Space style can be extremely satisfying. But does that description sound like the Saint Joe’s Hawks?
Clearly, the opposite has occurred on Hawk Hill. SJU has continually played games that feel hectic and out of control. There is no pretty ball movement with arena rocking three pointers. Rather, SJU tries to put up a shot within the first five seconds of the shot clock. Coach Lange needs to prove that his program will implement something with substance. The Richmond Spider proved that last night. They illustrated that a team can implement half court offensive sets and still have priority on three point shooting. These are not mutually exclusive concepts!
The current unrestrained Pace and Space style is just not acceptable. I am not trying to critique Coach Lange for no reason. I point these facts out now because this is the time for learning. It would be wrong if we did not point out what needs to be fixed before this program becomes set in its ways like the old administration. Clearly shooting early and often from beyond the arc is not a winning recipe.
Coach Lange has not able to find success with the unrestrained Pace and Space style in non-conference play. The fact is this young Hawks team needs more off-ball movement. More off ball movement would help to alleviate the fact that SJU has no true point guard. Off ball cuts will help less athletic players create separation against their opponent. SJU has proven that isn’t athletic or talented enough to play fast and loss. This roster of young players needs a structured style of play in which they can learn and grow as players. Leaving it up to a player’s athletic ability to create open looks has not worked.
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