Hawks were game but overmatched against Villanova

St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli shouts instructions to his young team against a talented, veteran Villanova squad.
St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli shouts instructions to his young team against a talented, veteran Villanova squad.
Posted: December 04, 2010

It's not easy for a team that relies so heavily on five freshmen and two sophomores to step onto the home floor of the 12th-ranked team in the nation - and a heated rival at that - and survive.

This was the daunting task for St. Joseph's on Friday night at Villanova in the first Big Five game of the season.

Decided underdogs, the Hawks (3-4) were willing but simply not able. They were not rattled by the bigger, more experienced, and more talented Wildcats in their 71-60 defeat. That much was evident in the first 16 minutes, when they were within 28-25, thanks mostly to the fearless play of the smallest and skinniest guard on the court - sophomore Carl Jones.

The 165-pound Jones, who scored a game-high 19 points, seemed to relish matching up with Villanova's outstanding backcourt pair of Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns.

But the trouble that eventually would do in the Hawks surfaced late in the first half, when the Wildcats began to take control of the offensive boards while their defense tightened, forcing St. Joseph's to run down the shot clock.

St. Joe's 28-25 deficit quickly became 38-28 at halftime, and when Villanova's lead ballooned to 54-33 in the first five minutes of the second half, the hill became too steep for the Hawks to climb - even though they kept fighting.

"What they did at the beginning of the second half is what Jay's teams are really good at - they try to blitz you," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said, alluding to Wildcats coach Jay Wright. "They scored 14 points in the first five minutes, and it was too far to climb against a really good team."

It was the second consecutive game in which the Hawks were pummeled on the boards. In Wednesday's loss to Drexel, they were outrebounded, 46-23. Villanova beat the Hawks off the glass, 48-34.

Martelli doesn't want his players to persistently hear that they are too young and too slightly built to compete for rebounds. He believes they can overcome their disadvantage with heart of positioning.

"You can't just say they're older, stronger," Martelli said. "You've got to bring your ticker, and you've got to be willing to fight. It's got to be a group effort, not just the inside guys - you've got to fight for the ball. That's two games in a row we got it handed to us on the offensive glass, and that's a shame because I think defensively for a younger group, we're OK."

A sequence at the outset of the second half was typical of the way much of the game went. The Wildcats' Dominic Cheek rebounded a missed shot and found Corey Stokes open on the perimeter. Stokes buried the three-pointer. It was one of several possessions in which Villanova either rebounded its own missed shot or tipped the ball to a teammate. The Wildcats had a 22-12 advantage on the offensive boards.

"They had men, but we have to get that," Martelli said.

As Martelli walked out of the locker room to the interview area, he said he was told by some of Wright's friends that the Hawks had given it all they had.

"Whenever you're a coach and people tell you that you played hard, what they're telling you is, 'You stink. You're not good enough.' " he said. "Playing hard is a euphemism for you ain't good enough. You get a scholarship to play hard."

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

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