At a packed Hagan Arena Wednesday night, with rain coming down in droves outside, St. Joe’s and Temple played one of the better Big 5 games of the last several years. The Hawks jumped out to an early 11-2 lead behind two Shavar Newkirk triples and 5 points from impressive freshman Nick Robinson. The Owls fought back, however, and did so in impressive fashion. A Mark Williams lay-up capped a 14-5 Temple run and tied things up at 16 with just under 9 minutes to go in the first half. Back-to-back Obi Enechionyia threes saw Temple take a 24-19 lead, and the teams would enter the locker room with Temple holding a 34-31 lead.
Two minutes into the second half, Temple grabbed its biggest lead of the game, 43-36 on a wing three by freshman guard Alani Moore. Moments later Hawk freshman Charlie Brown, not to be outdone, buried a three of his own and St. Joe’s took a 44-43 lead. From there, we were on a rollercoaster. In the closing moments, after Shavar Newkirk went one-on-three and was blocked at the rim, Obi Enechionyia hit the dagger three. With Temple up 75-72 with 1:09 to go, Obi hit his sixth three of the game. And this one put a stake in it. Temple improved to 5-2, winning its fourth game in a row. St. Joe’s, on the other hand, dropped its third straight and saw its record fall to 3-3 heading into Saturday’s game at Villanova.
Here are five of my takeaways from last night, with a night to think on it.
1. Shavar Newkirk will be an All-League selection this year. We are now six games into the season, and it’s past the point of thinking that he’s just off to a hot start. Numbers can tell a story better than I can. Shavar went off for 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists last night. On the year, he is averaging 21.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4 assists. He is shooting 48% from three on the year and 82% from the line. Obviously he is on a much different team, but some perspective here. As a senior, Langston Galloway averaged 17.7 points and shot 44% from three. The last Hawk to average 20 points per game in a season was a certain someone named Jameer Nelson in 2003-2004, when he won National Player of the Year honors. Now, I’m not comparing the two at all, and we are only six games into the season. So far however, you could argue that Shavar Newkirk is playing as well as any guard in the Atlantic 10. His transformation has been remarkable.
2. Lamarr Kimble did some great things last night. He found his stroke from deep, going 3-4 from downtown. He had nine assists. He was able to penetrate from the perimeter. He seemed to get his groove back after two particularly rough games in the Paradise Jam. That being said, his turnover with just under two minutes to go, down one, was an absolute killer. After Javon Baumann’s block of a Temple three, the Hawks had numbers going the other way and a change to take the lead. Kimble tried to thread a pass on the break to Baumann which resulted in a turnover. That play, which was later compounded by Newkirk driving one-on-three, and turning it over, really did the Hawks in. This is a young team, and one without two additional starters that it expected to have this year in Pierfrancesco Oliva and James Demery. Still, down one with the ball and all the momentum in the world at home, that pass by Kimble was a heart-breaker.
3. Alani Moore. Quentin Rose. Charlie Brown. Nick Robinson. Wow, this game had a lot of talented freshmen playing major roles. This was my first time seeing Quentin Rose in person, and he’s special. He’s playing better than any freshman in the city right now, and that’s no slight at anyone else. He was incredibly impressive last night. One play in particular, a quick-hitch, one dribble pull-up right in Chris Clover’s face was jaw-dropping. He has terrific size, a handle, a jumper that looks solid, and a fantastic feel for the game. Charlie Brown only shot 3-12 for the Hawks, but all three were triples. He was also more active on the glass, corralling a career-high 7. Then, you had Nick Robinson who I think had his best game as a Hawk, breaking into double figures with 11 points to go along with 3 boards and 2 assists. The future is really bright with all four of these players, and it will be really fun watching them go head-to-head over the next few years.
4. The officiating was horrendous. I know that’s such an easy complaint. My high school job for three winters was a youth basketball referee. I know it’s an extraordinarily challenging job. However, there were times last night that the only word that really encapsulated what was happening on the court was incompetence. Javon Baumann was undercut and tackled then subsequently called for a foul. Chris Clover was hammered at the rim with no call, then moments later Shavar Newkirk was called for a blocking foul on the far baseline, right in front of me, where there was minimal if any contact. Phil Martelli, who has been as calm as I’ve ever seen him in the last decade on the sideline this year, was livid on several of the whistles. It did go both ways, and it didn’t necessarily cost the game, but it was glaringly poor last night.
5. Markell Lodge had some moments last night that gave you great hope moving forward. By and large, this year has been center-by-committee as Jai Williams, Markell Lodge, and Javon Baumann have shared minutes at that position. Last night, to me at least, Lodge solidified himself not only as the starter but as the clear-cut leader at that position. In his 24 minutes, he had 9 points and 5 boards, blocked two shots, altered several others, and played with a nastiness, an edge, and that freakish athleticism. He sat for most of the stretch, and during that time, I thought the Hawks could have really used him both offensively and defensively on Obi Enechionyia. Javon, who played well by and large, lost Obi at least three times around screens. Screens that I think Markell gets around. Moving forward, it wouldn’t surprise me if Lodge’s minutes incrementally went up. I think they should. He showed something last night
St. Joe’s returns to action Saturday at Villanova. I’ll be there and have complete coverage.null