Demery's career-high 25 powers the Hawks

St. Joe's junior James Demery poured in a career-high 25 points Saturday afternoon at Fordham, powering the Hawks to a 70-55 victory. With the win, St. Joe's improved to 8-6 on the year, and 2-1 in Atlantic 10 play. My 5 major takeaways are inside.

1) St. Joe's showed some resilience, despite what the final score indicates.  The Hawks were on cruise control through most of the first half and took a commanding 44-29 lead into the half.  That lead ballooned to 46-29 a minute into the second half on a high-flying, thunderous alley-oop connection from Lamarr Kimble to Markell Lodge.  Fordham didn't fold though, instead going on an 18-6 to pull the Rams within 52-47 with 13 minutes to go.  Instead of folding, they fought back hard, reeling off 16 unanswered to put the game out of reach.  James Demery went on his own 7-0 run in the midst of the greater run.  Despite not scoring for the final 5:50 of the game, the Hawks cruised past Fordham 70-55.  On the road. In the snow.  Just two games removed from losing Shavar Newkirk for the season.  There was reason to think that maybe, just maybe, the Hawks would fold when it became a five-point game.  Instead, they responded loudly with a 16-0 run that put the game out of reach.  These are the types of games that St. Joe's needs to win this season.  And Saturday, they did just that.

2) James Demery missed ten games during the Out of Conference portion of this year's Saint Joseph's schedule.  The Hawks suffered a four-game losing streak during his absence, but managed to still go 5-5. If Demery had been in the Hawks' lineup, I think there is very good reason to think they would have won an additional game or two.  He was brilliant Saturday, putting together probably his best college game.  He had 14 points at the half, finishing with 25, and scoring them in every way imaginable.  James was 2-3 from deep, had a number of acrobatic finished at the rim, knocked down pull-up jumpers from multiple angles.  He looked like an elite player within the A10.  Demery has always been an exceptional defender, a high-level athlete, and a shifty slasher to the rim.  If he can couple a reliable jumper with those other attributes, he has a chance to be a big-time scorer the remainder of this season and moving forward.  It was an eye-opening performance from the junior wing.  

3) Markell Lodge played like a man possessed again Saturday. He plays with such violent athleticism.  In just 15 minutes Saturday, he had 10 points and 7 rebounds. At least two of those boards had his head seemingly level with the bottom of the backboard.  His alley-oop early in the second half was as impressive a dunk as I've seen from a Hawk in a number of years.  Sometimes I forget that Markell is not even halfway through his sophomore season.  Since he redshirted his first year on Hawk Hill, and barely played last year behind Aaron Brown, Papa Ndao, and Isaiah Miles, he is still getting acclimated to the college game.  It feels like he's been around forever, but he hasn't played a ton of college minutes.  When he plays with that violent athleticism, that borderline reckless abandon that he played with Saturday, he is tough to contain.  

4) Now for the only two things that were of some concern to me Saturday.  Fresh Kimble's final stat line of 12 points, 9 boards, and 6 assists was really impressive.  He hit a three from NBA range.  He had some great finds.  But the 8 turnovers are an issue.  On several occasions, he got lackadaisical with the ball, and on several occasions, the ball seemed to get stuck in his hands.  Kimble was also 0-2 from the free throw line, bringing his season average to 56%.  He was 74% from the line last year.  Kimble's shooting numbers are down across the board this year.  From three, he's down to 29% from 37%.  From the field, from 41% to 36%.  With Shavar out, Kimble will need to shoot better.  My other concern from yesterday was Charlie Brown only getting two field goal attempts.  He had double-digit field-goal attempts in 6 of the Hawks' first 11 games.  But in the last three, with Newkirk out, he's gotten 9 shots, 7 shots, then 2 shots respectively.  The Hawks must get him more looks, and better looks.  He's a guy you can draw a play up for due to his ability to shoot from three.  It would benefit the Hawks both short-term and long to work on getting their star freshman shots.

5) I'm saving this last takeaway for an admission of guilt,  I haven't given Brendan Casper enough credit this year, or honestly throughout his career.  From a walk-on to a scholarship player this year, Casper has at times this year, been one of Saint Joseph's most valuable players.  He had statistically his best game Saturday, with 10 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds.  His 5 assists came to just one turnover, and was second best on the team behind Kimble, who paired 8 turnovers and his 6 assists.  He is a steadying force, stays within his lane offensively, and seemingly draws a big charge in every game.  Brendan Casper is a success story.  Any time you have a walk-on playing significant minutes, and earning a scholarship, it's a story.  You could argue that Saturday he was one of the Hawks' five best players.  His story is one that needs to be told and one that I'll be paying more attention to the rest of this season.

St. Joe's is now 8-6 (2-1).  Although it doesn't matter now and likely won't all year, it's worth noting that the Hawks, with their RPI of 54, have the fourth-best RPI in the A10, behind only Dayton, VCU, and Rhode Island.  St. Joe's returns to the hardwood Tuesday night at Hagan Arena against George Mason.  

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