Sam Istvan (@sistvan_14)
After a game in which St. Joe’s gave up 88 points at home in a loss, head coach Billy Lange knew that the focus would be on his team’s defensive effort. Yet, Lange suggested that the other end of the court is where his team gave away their chance to beat the surging Davidson Wildcats.
“We could have played better defensively,” said Lange. “We always could do that, but I thought our offense cost us an opportunity to be in a close game.
Billy Lange (above) wasn't thrilled with his team's offense after a loss to Davidson on Wednesday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Davidson came to Hawk Hill on Wednesday night on a nine-game win streak, boasting the No. 20-ranked offense in the country according to KenPom. So, Lange knew his team would have trouble slowing down the Wildcat offense. Yet, St. Joe’s was able to score with Davidson for a large portion of the first half.
Sophomore Jordan Hall buried a three to send SJU to a five-point lead late in the first half. The lead was fleeting though, as Davidson immediately embarked on a 24-6 run over a seven-and-a half minute period that spanned both halves, eventually coasting to an 88-73 win, their tenth straight.
During that run, the St. Joe’s offense was stifled. Neither Hall, nor 6-foot-8 senior Taylor Funk, the two leading scorers for the Hawks, tallied a single point during the long Davidson run. Hall finished with 17 points and six assists while Funk finished with five points after scoring a total of 38 in his previous two games.
Asked what led to the well drying up for his offense, Lange cited his team’s decision-making, even expressing bewilderment.
“Sometimes we've had moments offensively where I tell the team during the game, like I'm the head coach and I have no idea what we're doing, like what are we doing?”
As a team, the Hawks shot 27-of-65 (41.5%) overall and 11-of-28 (39.5%) from 3-point range, committing just eight turnovers. But that wasn’t enough to keep up with a Davidson attack that shot just over 50% from the floor (33-of-65, 50.8%) and 11-of-24 (45.8%) from the 3-point line.
St. Joe’s had breakdowns on both ends during the run with ill-advised drives and passes leading to turnovers, while on the other end miscommunications and confusion led to dunks and open shots for Davidson.
After opening Atlantic 10 play with an impressive 83-56 win over Richmond last Thursday, this was almost the exact opposite performance.
“You have to be able to execute the entire game, because you don't trick a team that has this level of experience and continuity.”
Lange continued, “I thought the collective focus and maturity is what hurt us.”
The maturity difference between the two teams was most evident in the point guard matchup: freshman Erik Reynolds against senior Foster Loyer, with three years of Big Ten experience at Michigan State under his belt.
Loyer schooled his younger counterpart, carrying the ball on a string and sporting a smooth stroke, as he tallied a game-high 25 points on 10-17 FGs (5-8 3Ps).
Loyer, who entered the transfer portal this summer, was hotly pursued by Lange before he committed to Davidson. Lange says Loyer was close to becoming a Hawk, “to the point where we thought we were going to get him.”
“What Loyer does is he just knows how to play,” said Lange. “So he just punishes every single mistake you make. He punishes. And so it's a great lesson for everyone.”
Lange hopes that his team, who was coming off a resounding 27-point road win over Richmond, won’t ignore the lessons they were given in their setback against Davidson.
“We use these lessons to learn…” said Lange. “You have a style of play, you have a philosophy, you commit to it, and you do it irregardless, It's not conditional. It's not circumstantial.”
Moving forward, Lange will look to get more consistency out of his team, who have posted a 20-plus point win and 20-plus point loss in their first two A-10 games. Next up for the Hawks (7-6, 1-1 Atlantic 10) is a trip to George Mason (7-6, 0-0) on Saturday, followed by a visit to Rhode Island (9-3, 0-0) next Wednesday.
Despite the loss and the quiet nights from leading scorers Funk and Hall, there were a few bright spots for the Hawks in the form of Philly-area natives, Dahmir Bishop (Imhotep) and Jack Forrest (Lower Merion). Bishop poured in 17 points and Forrest added 13, each season-highs for the two juniors off the bench.
Asked about the individual performances, Lange stressed, “it's not individual. It's collective. Teams that win, win collectively.”
The SJU collective, though, would certainly benefit if Bishop and Forrest can return to form and continue to add scoring punch off the bench after slow starts to the season. Forrest entered Thursday averaging 3.6 ppg after averaging 10.4 ppg in 14 games last season; Bishop’s scoring average dropped from 7.7 ppg to 3.6 ppg.