Anthony Longpre (above) had his first career double-figure game as St. Joe's beat defending Ivy League champs Princeton. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Zach Drapkin (@ZachDrapkin)
St. Joe’s took on Princeton in its home opener on Saturday night, and the Hawks took care of business.
Thanks to a big second half, St. Joe’s rallied for a 71-58 win over the Ivy League champs.
Here are some observations and quotes from the game:
1. New tradition on Hawk Hill
Saint Joseph’s announced the start of a new Hagan Arena tradition on Saturday night: stand and flap until the first Hawks basket. Its debut didn’t go quite as planned.
By the time St. Joe’s finally got a bucket, most fans’ imaginary wings were too tired to continue. Shavar Newkirk hit a three on the Hawks’ seventh attempt from the field, after already 5:13 of game time and a full media timeout had passed. Even by the timeout, which came with 15:54 to go in the half, the majority of the crowd was no longer flapping.
Luckily for St. Joe’s, the team found its stroke soon after, taking a 32-31 lead at the half and finishing the game 47 percent from the floor. The team hit over half its shots following the 0-for-6 start from the field.
As for the new tradition, which is supposed to mirror the streamers that come out after the first basket of Big 5 games at the Palestra, fans will enjoy it a lot more when their team scores quicker.
2. Freshmen bigs impress
Three games into his collegiate career, Taylor Funk has emerged as a star. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward led the Hawks with 23 points off the bench against Princeton and shot remarkably well, going 7-for-8 from the field, 5-for-6 from three, and 4-for-4 from the line.
Funk now leads St. Joe’s in scoring, with an average of 20.3 points per game. His 61 points are second-most of any St. Joe’s freshman through three games, behind Bernard Blunt’s 67 in 1990.
“I don’t know if I had an expectation, other than that he’s a player. He earned his way into the rotation,” Hawks head coach Phil Martelli said.
Though he’s officially a stretch-four, Funk’s play style has been more like that of a ‘2’ or ‘3’, and his agility and shooting ability really add another dimension to the team’s offense. It’ll be interesting to see how it all meshes when Charlie Brown returns from injury, which should be for the Hawks’ next game.
Fellow freshman Anthony Longpre’, who plays with similar size and style to Funk, had his best outing of the season, scoring 10 points, all of which came in came in the first half, and grabbing six rebounds. Longpre’, who has started each of the Hawks’ three games, plays similarly to Funk, and the pair will no doubt play a large part in the team’s future.
3. Hawks pull away late
With 11:17 to go in the game, Princeton held a 48-45 lead on the Hawks, but Funk hit a pair of consecutive threes to take the lead and the momentum with ten minutes to go, forcing the Tigers into a timeout.
After the timeout, St. Joe’s brought it to 55-50 with free throws from James Demery, who finished with 13 points, and a jumper by Nick Robinson. Funk then hit four consecutive free throws, the first four of his collegiate career, to stretch the lead to nine. A three by Princeton’s Matt LeBlanc made it 62-55 with 3:30 remaining, but the Hawks rattled off eight straight points to go up 15 and secure the ‘W’.
“We got the right pace going and then we had a good series against their zone,” Martelli said. “That’s exactly the shot you would want by the exact guy you would want to take it.”
A large part of the comeback effort was stopping Princeton’s Devin Cannady, who rattled off 17 first-half points and finished with 22 on 6-for-10 shooting from 3-point range. Cannady had just five points in the second frame, going 2-for-5 from the field and 1-for-4 from deep.
“That kid put on a shooting exhibition, whether we were zone or man-to-man, it was pretty impressive,” Martelli said. “We kept going, that would be the biggest thing. And we didn’t drop our head.”
4. Brown anxious to get back on the court
St. Joe’s sophomore Charlie Brown, who is poised for a big year, was ruled out of the team’s first three games due to a left wrist injury, but that didn’t stop him from trying to get into Saturday night’s game.
“He texted me at 4 o’clock, ‘coach, can I dress tonight and can I play,’ like I was the doctor,” Martelli said. “Now I do have three PhDs, I’ve given three commencement speeches, but I am not medical. When the doctors tell him to go, he’s in the rotation.”
Brown is set to be evaluated on Sunday as to whether he’ll be able to play Thursday in the team’s Wooden Legacy opener against Washington State. Martelli didn’t feel at liberty to say whether his 6-7 wing would be suited up for the game, but he certainly hopes that’s the case.
“I’m going to go to mass tomorrow, and that’s what I hope for at mass…along with a lot of other things that the world needs,” he said. “But I’m not a doctor.”
5. Hawks adjusting without Kimble
With Friday’s announcement that junior guard Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble would be out for the season with a foot injury, it came time once again for St. Joe’s with a plan B. Though Chris Clover took his spot in the starting lineup, it’s Nick Robinson who now has to step up as backup point guard, and Robinson saw 23 minutes of action against Princeton.
The 6-6 sophomore ended up with two points, four rebounds, and two assists in the win, playing at times alongside Shavar Newkirk and other times on his own as the lead guard. Martelli thought the offense was too slow with just Robinson in the game, but that things changed once Newkirk came back in.
“One of the gifts Nick has is an I.Q., he does not have foot speed, and slow guys trying to be too slow is painful to watch,” Martelli said. “I thought Shavar going back in at the back stretch…we got the right pace going and then we had a great series against their zone.”
“Nick did a good job running the show,” Newkirk added. “When Fresh was playing, guys like me and Fresh could just get in the lane and find open shooters and that would just open up the driving lanes for us.”
Kimble, the team captain, was still announced with the starters as the team captain on the bench. Newkirk made sure to acknowledge his off-court presence.
“Even though Fresh is not on the court, he’s still there, so he’s still the captain, he’s still the leader, he still talks to us, he texts us, he gives us insight when we don’t see it, and he’s just a great captain.”
On another note, Newkirk has played all three games despite nursing back an ACL tear from December, though he had an off-game against the Tigers, shooting 4-for-10 from the field for 11 points in 31 minutes. He airballed a three at one point and went 1-for-2 from the line, but made clear in the locker room afterwards that his knee is okay.
“My leg feels good. I wouldn’t be playing if it didn’t feel good,” he said. “It feels good everyday, I’ve just got to manage it with icing it and recovery.”