Men’s basketball opens season with loss to Toledo
The St. Joe’s men’s basketball team kicked their season off with a 98-87 road loss against University of Toledo on Nov. 11.
The Hawks were forced to begin their season without sophomore A-10 All Rookie selection Charlie Brown. He will miss at least the first three games due to a fractured wrist.
Senior Shavar Newkirk and junior Lamarr Kimble entered this game with extra motivation after their 2016-17 campaign came to an early close due to injury. Newkirk fell victim to a torn ACL on Dec. 30 of last year and Kimble had to miss the last seven games due to a fractured foot.
“Confidence and energy was very high because I hadn’t played in almost a year,” Newkirk said. “It was a great feeling to step back on the court.”
The Hawks were a little shaky in the first seven minutes of play. Senior James Demery and sophomore Pierfrancesco Oliva combined for only four points, which put St. Joe’s at an early 14 point deficit (18-4).
St. Joe’s managed to make it a four point game with five and a half minutes to play in the half, but Toledo quickly extended their lead and closed out the half, 45-36.
Demery was the leading scorer in the first half for the Hawks with 10 points. He was 4-6 from the field and 0-1 from three.
Toledo’s junior guard Jaelan Sanford led the Rockets in the first half with an impressive 16 points.
The first three minutes of the second half was a mirror image of the lackluster product St. Joe’s delivered during the first half. The score was 55-41 at this point, but it was only a matter of time before the Hawks started to catch fire.
Throughout the next seven minutes, St. Joe’s would outscore Toledo 17-8. Newkirk was the leading contributor with 10 points, bringing the Hawks to within three at the 10:27 mark. One minute later, Newkirk stole the ball, ran the length of the court and orchestrated a three point play off of an and-one layup. This brought their deficit down to two points, with the scoreboard at 66-64.
However, the Hawks’ impressive surge wasn’t nearly enough to stop Toledo’s high power perimeter offense. The Rockets would go on a 12-4 run and expand their lead to double digits, closing out the game with a 12 point advantage at 98-87. At the end of the game, Newkirk reflected on the team’s defensive struggles.
“Our reaction time has to be a little bit faster,” Newkirk said. “We need to anticipate better. Most of the time we waited until something happened, and by that time it was too late.”
Newkirk led St. Joe’s in scoring with 21 points. He was 6-12 from the field and 2-3 from three. Kimble put up 10 points but re-injured his foot towards the end of the game. He has been sent back to Philadelphia for further evaluation by team doctors. Demery finished with 16 points after being 6-9 from the field and 1-3 from three. Freshman Taylor Funk had an impressive debut performance, coming off the bench with 16 points.
Head Coach Phil Martelli commented on St. Joe’s overall performance in their opening game.
“From the first day of practice, I’ve been concerned about our foot speed,” Martelli said. “There were nine missed layups in the first half. But it was comforting to know that we could score the ball. Opportunities to win road games come up infrequently and you have to get it.”
Martelli also made sure to highlight Newkirk’s 21-point performance on the night.
“I was delighted by Shavar [Newkirk],” Martelli said. “Much credit to Bill Lukasiewicz [athletic trainer] and Brian Bingaman [strength coach], and his [Newkirk’s] courage and heart, and that’s a learned behavior. He’s a tribute to his family.”
Despite his impressive performance, Newkirk was not satisfied.
“I rank myself on wins,” Newkirk said. “Even though I played well, we didn’t get the win, so there’s way more I could have done. I should have gotten my teammates involved a little more.”
Newkirk also made sure to comment on the team’s low free throw percentage, which was 55 percent from the line.
“I believe it was first game jitters,” Newkirk said. “We definitely need to see the free throw percentage go up.”
St. Joe’s continued its road trip at the University of Illinois at Chicago on Nov. 13. They will then return home to Hagan Arena to face off against Princeton University on Nov. 18.