As Langston Galloway continues to thrive in the NBA, the college program that the Knicks' guard left behind continues to sputter in his absence.
Most people probably figured Saint Joseph’s would take a step back after Galloway and fellow senior standouts Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic graduated after guiding the Hawks to an Atlantic 10 conference tournament championship and a near-upset over eventual national champion UConn in the NCAA Tournament.
But just how far they’ve fallen — the Hawks have lost seven of their last nine following a 53-48 setback to La Salle on Tuesday — has left head coach Phil Martelli scratching his head and blaming himself.
But he’s not discouraged.
“I’m not frustrated,” Martelli said. “I’m really, really, really not frustrated because it’s a good group of kids. There are just some holes in their game and not enough time to fill all those holes.”
It’s not hard to figure out where the problem areas lie. After graduating a good chunk of their scoring from last year’s team, the Hawks (8-11 overall, 2-5 Atlantic 10) simply haven’t found enough options to replace them.
Sophomore DeAndre' Bembry, who’s averaging a Big 5-leading 17.6 points per game, is a bona fide star and perhaps the best player in the city. But he’s not getting nearly enough help from his teammates, especially late in games.
Tuesday’s contest was the latest example as the Hawks let a 15-point lead slip away, making critical turnovers and not having what Martelli called “good shot conviction” down the stretch.
“We let the other team come and our guys get tight,” Martelli said. “And we end up being really a one-man band. And that’s my fault.”
To be fair, Isaiah Miles is having a nice season, averaging 10.5 points per game after serving as a role player on last year’s team. But even with Miles, Martelli lamented that the junior forward didn’t recognize a layup attempt late in Tuesday’s game, instead throwing the ball backwards at a critical juncture.
“Isaiah’s play at the end there, he hasn’t been coached well enough,” Martelli said. “We have to do a better job for him.”
If players aren’t coached well enough, it isn’t for lack of trying. Because this year’s team is so young and inexperienced, Martelli said the playbook is “three times bigger than it’s ever been.” And the players are eager to learn it.
“We’ve got to coach for everything,” he said. “I hate coaching like this. But it gives them a chance. They show up every day, apologizing and saying, ‘Coach, that was my fault.’ Yeah, guess what? I’m OK with that. I don’t need to know whose fault it is. It’s my fault. I need to do better for us.”
The only way for the Hawks to improve is for them to find a way to put the ball in the basket. St. Joe's scored just 52 and 48 points, respectively, in its last two losses — both to Big 5 opponents — and currently rank 312th in Division I in scoring (61.2 ppg) and 292nd in field goal percentage (40.4).
Martelli knew before the season that the Hawks would struggle shooting from long-range after losing a prolific sharpshooter like Galloway. What bothers him more is that the team is missing shots from inside the arc.
“There’s nothing to be done,” Martelli said of the three-point shooting. “We’ll go lock them in the gym and shoot 500 tonight. What’s the difference? The numbers are gonna be the numbers. It’s the two-point shooting that is of concern. Guys have to finish layups, and we’re not doing enough of that.”