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Hawks humbled by Villanova, but nobody should be surprised

St. Joseph's has played mainly close games this early part of the college basketball season but Saturday wasn't one of those occasions and it fit the narrative.

The Hawks aren't ready to compete favorably against nationally ranked teams, which should come as no surprise. They have neither the talent or experience to hang with these teams, but neither do many others in the country.

On Saturday, No. 10 Villanova scored the game's first eight points and never looked back. There was never a point where one felt that the Hawks were in the game during the Wildcats 74-46 win over St. Joseph's at the Pavilion.

St. Joseph's is 4-4 and has played six games decided by eight or fewer points, including five by four or fewer. This shows the Hawks have been in most games.

The two games the Hawks haven't been in were against nationally ranked teams, losing at Gonzaga, 94-42 and to Villanova, now 8-0.

"We have been in two lopsided games and non competitive games and didn't lead this one for a second," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "We got blitzed, but what we have to do is learn from this."

These are difficult but necessary lessons for an inexperienced team.

If the truth is to be told, it's still unknown how competitive St. Joseph's will be in an Atlantic-10 that has definitely taken a step back from last year when six teams earned NCAA bids.

Last season, albeit with a much more talented team, the Hawks trailed Villanova just 39-35 at halftime before losing 98-68.

This time, the first 20 minutes were far from competitive.

The Hawks trailed 44-24 at halftime and had committed 13 turnovers.

This is not to give the Hawks a free pass, but they can't be judged by what they do against a team like Villanova, which has the look of a team that can make a deep NCAA run. In fact VCU, considered the best team in the A-10, lost to Villanova, 77-53 on a neutral court.

So Villanova isn't a barometer for the Hawks or maybe the entire Atlantic-10. The Hawks lack of experience and marksmanship clearly showed. They shot 18 for 59 from the field, 1 for 10 from beyond the arc and 9 of 21 from the foul line. Throw in 21 turnovers and the result was predictable.

After eight games, here are three quick observations on the Hawks.

*DeAndre' Bembry is attempting to do too much. Last year he was more than comfortable as a third or fourth offensive option.

The problem is that for St. Joseph's to be competitive, he has to score. Bembry is strong going to the basket but the jump shot remains a work in progress.

*One player who continues to add a spark is Aaron Brown. Despite being 6-foot-5, Brown isn't afraid to take it to the basket. He scored seven points off the bench in the first half. On the downside, he was scoreless in the second half. Still, Brown gives the Hawks an element of toughness, a player who won't back down. Like the rest of the team, his perimeter game remains a work in progress.

*Isaiah Miles needs to show more consistency. The junior forward entered the game averaging 10.1 points but went scoreless, fouling out with 12:58 left and the Hawks trailing 54-26.

St. Joseph's has three games left before beginning its A-10 schedule in January. The Hawks host Loyola-Maryland on Tuesday and have road games at Marist Dec. 20 and at Denver Dec. 29.

It's a light rest of the month, but enough time to refine the offense in practice, get the players more accustomed to their roles and then prepare for the A-10 grind.

At least the Hawks will have one consolation – there are no Gonzagas or Villanovas left on the schedule.