1) St. Joe's was competitive in this one for about 28 minutes. This was not, by any stretch, an easy coast-to-coast victory for Andy Kennedy and his bunch of Rebels. Ole Miss led 41-37 at the half, getting a last second tip-in to give them a four-point halftime lead. St. Joe's kept it close for about the first half of the second half. A Lamarr Kimble free throw pulled the Hawks within 54-49 with 12:19 to go. But then a Terence Davis three, a Chris Clover missed front end of a one-and-one, a Chris Clover turnover, and a Sebastian Saiz bucket in the post, and before you knew it the Rebels had a double-digit lead. The Rebels wouldn't look back. Their lead swelled to as much as 15 before they eventually closed it out 81-68. This one wasn't really in any doubt once the Rebels built up their double-digit lead mid-way through the second half.
2) Free throws were an issue. Saying they were 'THE' issue is a bit overdramatic, but they certainly contributed to the outcome of this game. St. Joe's went just 10-22 from the line. Even five or six additional makes, of the 12 misses, would have made this is tighter, more competitive game down the stretch. Shavar Newkirk shot 9-10 from the line Friday in the win over Loyola. He was just 6-10 tonight. Lamarr Kimble was just 3-6. Markell Lodge was 0-3. Chris Clover missed the front end of that one-and-one. Charlie Brown, who has the most pure shooting stroke on the team, didn't attempt a single free throw. That's something that will certainly come with time with him, as he improves in his ability to attack the basket and be more than just a shooter. The Hawks were just 17-28 (61%) in their season-opening win over Toledo. They were 14-21 (67%) against Columbia. The best game of the year in terms of free-throw shooting was, hands-down, Friday against Loyola where they shot 22-29 (76%) from the line. Tonight, it hurt them. There are games this year where it will. And others, like Friday, where players like Newkirk will ice things down the stretch.
3) The Hawks very clearly miss James Demery. The junior wing is arguably St. Joe's best perimeter defender. He is one of their leading scorers. With him injured, St. Joe's has played walk-on Brendan Casper for long stretches. During the second half tonight, when Nick Robinson and Chris Clover were both struggling, Casper played. Normally that would be Demery. Demery's timetable has him probably returning, if all goes well, somewhere around the beginning of conference play. He will really be missed until then.
4) Talk about a tale of two halves for Chris Clover. Clover checked in in the first half, cooly knocked down two three, and then had a pretty head-fake one-bounce pull up 15 footer from the right baseline. He was assertive, didn't try to dribble too much, and made good decisions. He then proceeded to really struggle in the second half. Chris had a lay-up blocked, a three blocked, missed a front-end, had the ball yanked right out of his hands, and appeared lost a few times defensively. 8 points on 3-7 shooting is solid for Chris, and if he can average around 8 a night, that would really help this year's Hawk squad. He needs to be a net-positive though, and tonight's fantastic first half was essentially negated by his play in the second half. He was great against Columbia, then didn't contribute at all in 11 minutes against Loyola. Tonight's minutes were equally promising and then frustrating. His ability to contribute positively off the bench is very much needed this year, especially with James Demery out.
5) Charlie Brown once again showed promising flashes. He had 13 points, including 3-5 from downtown. He is now 8-18 from downtown on the season. There are other aspects of his game that show promise as well. He's had two huge drives and dunks this season. He's more active on the glass than most anticipated entering the game, He had an offensive rebound and put-back lay-up in the second half tonight. The Hawks need a third scorer behind Newkirk and Kimble with Demery out, and it's becoming more and more clear that Charlie Brown is that player. He has such a bright future ahead.
6) Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble will give most teams' backcourts fits. Newkirk was very good again tonight, finishing with 21 points, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 3 boards. He got into the lane at will, was a menace defensively, and had arguably the Hawk highlight of the game in the first half when he crossed over and then hit a step-back three. Kimble struggled with his shot tonight, but showed an ability to turn the corner and get into the heart of a defense. After going 4-6 from three Friday, he was just 1-6 tonight from downtown. There are still way more positives than negatives to take away from that duo so far this season.
St. Joe's returns to action tomorrow night at 6 eastern. They will play the loser of NC State-Creighton. I'll have everything covered here again post-game tomorrow.