In a nonconference season marked by inconsistency, Saturday presented a chance for St. Joseph’s to gain a little momentum before it enters Atlantic 10 play against George Mason on Thursday.
After a dramatic victory over 2018 NCAA Final Four-team Loyola Chicago a week earlier, St. Joe’s was in position to win consecutive games for the first time since starting the season 3-0.
Not that any game is a lock, but Wagner of the Northeast Conference was a home game the Hawks were supposed to win.
St. Joe’s did, but the ugly 59-57 victory raised far too many questions for coach Phil Martelli.
“I always say it’s a numeric game,” he said. Wagner had "14 offensive rebounds. We committed 11 turnovers. They had 13 points off of our turnovers.
“We’ve got to get going. We have got to get guys playing. I’m not going upstairs and saying, ‘Well, that guy’s playing, so he’s fine.’ Nobody is playing to the level he is capable of.
“We’ve got to do a lot of checking here to see if we can play better basketball, because that won’t get it done in the Atlantic 10.”
Martelli consistently says he does not believe there are lessons to be learned out of losses, so the upside is that the Hawks (7-5) got a win.
Despite going scoreless for the final 4:53, St. Joe’s managed to hold onto a sliver of its seven-point lead. After Charlie Brown (17 points) missed a three-pointer with 4.5 seconds left, the Hawks scrambled back on defense to close the passing lanes, and freshman Jared Bynum harassed Wagner forward Elijah Davis, keeping him from launching a final shot.
“The only key to the game was Jared Bynum’s defense on that last play,” Martelli said. “There was no other time in the game when I felt we played our way. … I really didn’t like anything about it other than the result.”
Imhotep Charter’s Devin Liggeons had six points and seven rebounds for Wagner (6-7)
Something is not clicking for the Hawks.
What that means going into the A-10 season depends on whether you ask a St. Joe’s coach or player.
Players tend to be bit more optimistic, and while the Hawks know they have some issues to resolve, they don’t see a hot mess.
“Do I like it? No,” said senior guard Chris Clover, who had a season-high nine points off the bench. “but we’ve overcome adversity in the last two games, so that definitely shows that we have a team that wants to win."
Clover added: "We’ve still got a lot of growing to do, but we just have to pick it up in league play. We’ve got a lot of guys who can play. Once we get it rolling, it will keep progressing.”