Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
PHILADELPHIA — With 7:11 left in the first half Thursday night, Hawks’ coach Billy Lange motioned to the end of his bench and it appeared for a second he was pointing at the flapping St. Joe’s Hawk mascot—feathers and all—to go in.
It was that bad—for visiting Albany and its coach, Dwayne Killings, a former Temple assistant returning to the area.
St. Joe’s started strong and the Hawks never let up en route to a 99-79 rout over Albany (2-3) at the intimate Hagan Arena.
Erik Reynolds II (above) set a new career high with 32 points as St. Joe's finished one point shy of 100. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Sophomore guard Erik Reynolds II led the Hawks (2-1 overall) with a career-high 32 points, while former Roman Catholic star Lynn Greer III added 19, senior guard Cameron Brown 17 and fifth-year senior center Ejike Obinna 13.
Former Roman guard Da’Kquan Davis scored a team-high 32 for the Great Danes and 15 came from forward Aaron Reddish, who’s from Norristown and attended Pebblebrook.
“The competitiveness of our group I liked in both halves, because Albany plays hard,” Lange said. “They do not go away. They have a bunch of older guys. It’s not about the jersey, it’s about the experience. They were playing a bunch of guys coming off COVID years that had incredible experience and we’re playing a bunch of freshmen and sophomores a lot of minutes.
“I wanted to see us continue growing and maturing, and becoming a program that prides itself on defense and ball sharing. Tonight was just one of those nights. We started well and what I take from this is we had an amazing first half, but there were things in the second half that I was not pleased with.”
Lange was very pleased the Hawks turnovers dropped from 19 against Lafayette in their previous game, to 12 against Albany. Rebounding could be a concern, since the Hawks gave up 10 offensive boards.
“That’s not acceptable, it’s way too much,” Lange said. “Our pick-and-roll defense has to improve, too.”
Killings certainly was looking for something better on his return to the Philadelphia area. Knowing the area, Killings has stocked his team with locals (Davis, Reddish, Westtown’s Ny’Mire Little and Archbishop Carroll’s Tairi Ketner, the son of former Roman Catholic and UMass standout Lari Ketner).
“I thought to St. Joe’s credit, they got off to a really good start, moving the ball to the basket, and we missed a couple of shots and it got out to 8-0,” Killings said. “We tried to rush and speed up. I think a lot of that was playing in front of friends and family. Ny’Mire Little makes a great play at the rim and he was excited and he gets banged for a technical. These guys all know each other.”
It may be why the game carried an edgy undertone, even though it was a blowout. There were four technical fouls called, three on Albany and one on St. Joe’s.
Lynn Greer III (above) had 19 points in his best outing as a Hawk. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“They wanted to beat us and we stoked the level of competitiveness with our guys, and this is the way we want to play,” Lange said. “St. Joseph’s is a passionate, authentic type of university. We want our players to play the exact same way. We should be picking fights every time we’re on the court. We just don’t need to foul as much as we did. But I want the fist fight mentality, we want the fist-fight mentality. We have to, we have no choice.”
The game was over within the first five minutes.
“St. Joe’s is a really good basketball team that’s been building their culture for a while,” Killings said. “I thought it would be a more competitive game. I thought it would be a great challenge for our guys, but it’s going to be hard for us to perform this early in the season without Gerald Drumgoole, whose knee was banged up and was limited tonight.”
The Hawks bolted out to a 15-0 lead before the Great Danes scored on Little’s driving layup—and proceeded to get hit with a tech after letting the Hawks know about it. It was the first of two techs on the Great Danes in the first half.
“We’re just starting to find our identity as a team and we came out and played some hard defense at the start, that was our main focus,” Greer said. “We wanted to play as hard as we could on defense, and that translated to offense.
“We need to keep being dogs defensively. That’s the only thing I really care about, because the offense is going to come. (Against Lafayette), I went 0-for-8, but it didn’t matter, because I still played good defense and we won.”
The Hawks went into intermission with the most points they scored at halftime this young season, holding a commanding 60-30 lead. The 60-point explosion exceeded what the Hawks scored in their season opener in an 80-55 loss to Houston on Nov. 11 and almost what they scored in their first victory of the season in getting by Lafayette, 63-59, on Nov. 14.
Over the first 20 minutes, the Hawks forced the worst of two worlds on the Great Danes: Great defense and they couldn't miss. Albany, however, missed its first seven shots and turned the ball over three times before the Great Danes finally scored.
“I wanted to create as much energy as possible at the start of the game, and it’s something me, Lynn and Cam talked about setting the tone,” Reynolds said. “We need to keep focusing on defense. The more we attack on that end, the easier it will be on offense. That’s going to make us really good. We do like a fist fight. We want people to know St. Joe’s has a reputation for hitting you and being physical.”
For the half, when the game was still competitive, the Hawks made 24 of 42 from the floor, while Albany shot 9 of 39. Albany didn’t reach double figures until there was 7:11 before intermission.
It’s when a Hawks’ fan yelled courtside, “Try and get to 10!”
The Great Danes did one better—they reached 11.
By then, St. Joe’s was comfortably ahead, 35-11, and Lange was looking to make deep-bench substitutes.
“No, I wasn’t going to put the Hawk in,” Lange said, laughing. “That Hawk is one of our managers and if I could put any Hawk in, he’d be the one.”