Villanova, PA – Villanova (#6) crushed Saint Joe’s, 81-52, in Saturday’s Holy War matchup. This extended Villanova’s win streak over the Hawks to ten games in a row. Villanova was led by Guard Collin Gillespie who scored 23 points on 7-12 shooting. Gillespie was 5-7 from three and was a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line. On the other side. Saint Joe’s was led by sophomore Jordan Hall who scored 22 points on 8-20 shooting. Hall also had 6 turnovers which was the most on the team.
Compared to La Salle’s outing last week, Saint Joe’s had a much better start against the Wildcats. At halftime Saint Joe’s was down to Villanova by only 12 points, 34-22. For most of the first half the teams were within respectable distance of one another. Villanova did pull away to close the half. Yet, even when down twelve points it felt that Saint Joe’s was still in the game. This was especially true when one considers the run Saint Joe’s went on with 4:00 minutes left in the half, closing a 13 point gap down to six.
However, the whole thing fell apart in the second half as Villanova went on a 12 to 1 run to start the first five minutes. By then the game was out of reach as Villanova grew the lead to over 20 points.
Put the Ball in the Basket
In the end, this game can be summed up by one thing, Saint Joe’s could not make a basket. The Hawks finished the game shooting 22% from three and 36% from the field. Taylor Funk had an especially poor night scoring no points and going 0-6 from the field.
Saint Joe’s did keep turnovers and fouls relatively close, only 15 turnovers to Nova’s 13. The main issue for Saint Joe’s was the offense, a reoccurring theme this season. Just like La Salle, Saint Joe’s had no offensive set to manufacture points against Villanova. Saint Joe’s swung the ball east to west, relying on Hall and Reynolds to make ‘North to South’ plays in the lane.
The Hawks continue to rely on two forms of scoring. The first, are wild three’s that come within the early portion of the shot clock. The second, is the continued dependency on individuals to manufacture their own points through ‘1 on 1’ matchups. Both remain a nightmare for Saint Joe’s, and have shown to be inconsistent sources of scoring. While one must consider the fact that Villanova is a top tier program in the country, an 81-52 blowout is unacceptable to Hawk fans. Especially when the team has talented, and offensive minded individuals, like Jordan Hall and Taylor Funk.
Main Line vs. City Line
While Saint Joe’s fans are justified in anger, they do need to have a somewhat realistic expectation for this game. Villanova is a team that has consistent excellence. A program where the majority of players stay until their senior year, and prioritize the preservation of a winning culture. The Wildcats also have a recruiting pipeline which any school would kill for. In summary, Jay Wright has successfully stopped Villanova from having any down years. They consistently keep themselves within the top 10 teams in the country, which just makes it that much harder for Saint Joe’s to win, even on a good year. For example, just use the Saint Joe’s team of 2015-16 as an example. We were a good tournament team, Villanova was the national champion.
If you take the long view for the 2021-22 Saint Joe’s season, you come to the conclusion that this loss does not mean much. The only thing it does hurt is Saint Joe’s pride. Luckily, the season is still in tact. It was a loss that was assumed at the start of the season. Over the last 15 years the school has come into this game with a realistic outlook. Villanova is good, and Saint Joe’s will need to play perfect basketball to beat them. It’s a loss that is baked into the cake and one that Saint Joe’s could reasonably prepare for.
Yes, fans should hope that Saint Joe’s wins. Yes, at a minimum we should expect a team that is within 10 points of Nova. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and hasn’t happened stretching through both through parts of the Martelli and Lange eras. When Saint Joe’s finally beats Nova, it will be one to remember. But for now, it’s sadly a game that puts Saint Joe’s on national TV, and one that barely keeps Big 5 tradition alive.
The real test for Saint Joe’s are the next two Big 5 games. Saint Joe’s will play Penn on Wednesday and Temple on Saturday. These are winnable games for the Hawks. Lange needs to keep the team focused and prepared for it. A win against each of these two will keep Saint Joe’s on track to becoming a .500 team again.