1) That was St. Joe's best win of the year. Princeton's record of 4-4 doesn't quite do them justice. That's a really good basketball team, deep and well-coached. However, the Hawks led nearly wire-to-wire Wednesday night. St. Joe's from the opening tip, and took a 43-38 lead into halftime. The Hawks saw their lead climb to 59-49 on a Chris Clover lay-in with 10:43 to play. The Hawks' next field goal, a Shavar Newkirk drive and finish, came at the 3:39 mark. Over those seven minutes, Princeton went on a 15-2 run. The Hawks got a nice pull-up jumper from Charlie Brown after Newkirk's basket to reclaim the lead at 65-64, and then St Joe's went on a 15-4 run to close the game, winning 76-68. The win was Saint Joseph's second in a row, with both wins coming on the road. The 5-4 Hawks return to action Sunday at Illinois State.
2) I've written so much this year about the play of Shavar Newkirk, and rightfully so. He was terrific again tonight, despite struggling from the field. He was 10-11 from the line, and finished with a team-high 19 points. He also collected 8 boards. Shaver's backcourt-mate, sophomore Lamarr Kimble, was also spectacular Wednesday. Kimble finished an assist and two rebounds short of a triple-double, with 17 points, 8 boards, and 9 assists. While his lone turnover was a bad one, it's worth noting that he only turned it over once tonight. As a team, the Hawks only turned it over 10 times. Kimble continued to struggle shooting from deep. He was 1-4 tonight, and is just 33% on the year. He played a terrific floor game Wednesday though. routinely finding open shooters on the perimeter, finding Markell Lodge above the rim, and making great decisions in the half-court set. When Kimble and Newkirk are both on, like they were tonight combining for 36 points, 16 boards, and 9 assists with only 2 turnovers, this is a tough team to beat.
3) Markell Lodge made two plays in about 35 seconds of game time that completely turned the tide of the game. With the Hawks up 65-64 with under two minutes to play, Lodge, the 6'7 jumping jack redshirt sophomore, met a Tiger at the rim for an emphatic block, then on the very next Hawk possession, corralled an offensive rebound and put it back as the shot clock expired. The block and the subsequent basket were a four-point swing in what was just a one-point game. The block, which prevented a Princeton dunk, allowed the Hawks to maintain a 65-64 lead, then his lay-up gave SJU a 67-64 lead. Instead of down one, the Hawks had a three-point lead. In 20 minutes of playing time, Lodge had 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. He is starting to put it together. It's hard to argue against Javon Baumann's playing time when he goes out and grabs 7 rebounds in 13 minutes, but the way Lodge has shown that he's capable of playing, it's frustrating at times to see his playing time plateau at around 20 minutes. I thought that he provided a great spark tonight, and he provides an intimidating presence in the middle for Saint Joseph's.
4) Charlie Brown probably played the worst game of his career Sunday at Drexel. How does a freshman respond? With the best game of his career Wednesday. He showed an ability to score at all three levels. That's the next step in his development. He was 2-5 from three, and that's his bread-and-butter. But he also had a pretty finish on a run-out in transition. He also had a head-fake and one dribble pull-up jumper from 17 feet. Charlie finished with 12 points and 7 boards. He made a fantastic defensive play in the game's closing seconds to help seal the win. Brown has NBA upside, and I won't stop saying that. Sunday he wasn't locked in on either end. Wednesday he was. He hit a three to open the game and was engaged for all 32 of his minutes. He was fantastic.
5) What will happen when James Demery returns? With Demery out, Nick Robinson has been thrust into the starting lineup. He will head back to the bench when Demery returns. But what happens from there? Brendan Casper had 8 points and 7 boards in 20 minutes tonight. He had 10 points and 4 boards in 20 minutes against Drexel. His minutes will definitely get eaten into with Demery back, and playing 35 a night. The one whose minutes I could see getting impacted the most, however, is sophomore Chris Clover. Robinson will still get his 15-20 minutes a night, Casper's are reduced but not eliminated, at least not with the way he's currently playing. I think it's Chris Clover who could possibly, unfortunately, be the odd man out when Demery returns. On the year, Clover is shooting 3-15 from three (20%) and just 12-38 (32%) from the field. In all of this, the most important aspect is that James Demery is getting closer and closer to a return. He only played one game this season. But his return to the lineup will be a huge boost for the Hawks, on both ends of the floor.
I will have a full early-season high school recruiting round-up on site Friday night, something that I've been working on all week. Then an Illinois State preview on Saturday. Keep it locked here to Hawk Hill Hardwoodnull