Phil Martelli cut the reporter off before the question was even finished.
“No idea,” the St. Joe’s head coach said, while shaking his head, when asked what Sunday’s 71-63 loss to La Salle (see story) would do to his team’s NCAA tournament hopes.
“I haven’t thought about it, I haven’t talked about it. People keep saying ‘Well, you must talk to Joe Lunardi hourly.’ I don’t.”
Martelli might want to think about chatting with Mr. Bracketology in the near future. Although, the news may not be what he wants to hear.
The Hawks appeared securely in the Big Dance just a week ago before suffering back-to-back losses to George Washington and La Salle.
Sunday’s loss was particularly tough because it came at home against a middling Explorers team that the Hawks had already taken care of at Tom Gola Arena just last month.
While Martelli believed the emotion of senior day might have been too much for St. Joe’s, his players weren’t buying that logic.
“I just think he was trying to protect us. We played bad,” said Halil Kanacevic, who finished the game with six points on 3 of 8 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds. “He looks out for his players a lot. He’s really trying to protect us. We got a good group, so when he says, it I believe it. But we played bad and I played horrible.”
The numbers back up some of Kanacevic’s criticism. The Hawks turned the ball over 14 times, including 10 times in the first half. They also lost the battles in points off turnovers (17-10), second-chance points (11-10), fast-break points (15-12) and bench points (8-0).
Plus, their season-long free throw woes bit them yet again. The Hawks were a dismal 12 of 22 (54.5 percent) from the line compared to 25 of 31 (80.6 percent) for the Explorers.
“We were off. I don’t know any other way to put it,” Martelli said. “We were off. The way we’ve been successful is everybody’s kind of pulled in the same direction. We didn’t have that same pull today.”
St. Joe’s will attempt to find out exactly what’s been wrong lately when the team returns to practice on Tuesday.
The Hawks know they might have some work to do in the eyes of the selection committee when they take the court for their first game of the Atlantic 10 tournament at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. They'll face the winner of Dayton and either Fordham or George Mason.
But the players are just focused on shaking this recent funk and getting back to the style of play that earned them 21 wins this season.
“We weren’t getting stops tonight and Wednesday,” senior guard Langston Galloway said. “We just were allowing GW and La Salle just to score too easy. We have to get back to that on the defensive end, and then our pace wasn’t as good as it’s normally been. That’s what’s been troubling us.
“We’re just not playing well. We want to win the next one, pick our game up right now.”
With the season reaching its most critical point, any success the Hawks reach will come on the backs of Galloway and those same seniors.
“In the Atlantic 10 and the postseason we’re going to play our best players, but they have to play our best too,” Martelli said.