Phil Martelli staying positive despite St. Joe's slump

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Phil Martelli staying positive despite St. Joe's slump

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.”

Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

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Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

ERIN, Wis. — The U.S. Open is all about tradition. This week is the 117th playing of golf's national championship and this event more than most celebrates those golfers who play the game as amateurs. 

Soon-to-be Drexel graduate Chris Crawford has been soaking up all the traditions this week at Erin Hills. Playing in his second U.S. Open after qualifying through both local and sectional competition for the second straight year, an extremely difficult feat, the 23-year-old fifth-year senior enjoyed the amateur dinner put on by the tournament organizers with the USGA. Crawford and his fellow amateurs, a stout list including Texas' Scottie Scheffler, who shot 3-under Thursday to seize the early low amateur lead, were celebrated the entire evening — one of Crawford's early highlights in a long week here in Wisconsin. 

Crawford produced a 3-over par 75 Thursday during the first round to tie for 102nd out of a field of 156 players.

"I played OK (Thursday)," Crawford said. "I'm going to take more positives than negatives out of the round. I played really well for 14 holes and just had a few bad swings on the other four holes."

Indeed, Thursday morning started nervously for the former Drexel golf standout. On the opening par-5 first hole, he snap-hooked his drive into the weeds out of bounds to the left, resulting in a double bogey. Three holes later, he chipped one shot over the back of the fourth green and took another double-bogey, placing him 4-over through four holes. 

Although bogeys might keep many of us alive in our weekend matches, it doesn't cut it in a U.S. Open. Crawford responded well in the ensuing 14 holes, going 1-under in that stretch.

Crawford's coach Mike Dynda, who teaches him at LuLu Country Club in Glenside, Pennsylvania, said he makes a big point to prepare Crawford's mind for his big rounds.

"I texted him last night and said, 'When you got to sleep, imagine that you're on the 18th hole and you have a putt for 9-under,'" Dynda said. "It's important to go to sleep and dream like that."

On the other side, Dynda — who taught the golf team at Drexel from 2003-2015 — also told his pupil to stay away from expectations. When you're 23 and you're playing in your second consecutive U.S. Open, one might think it would be easy to get ahead of yourself. Not so with Crawford, according to Dynda.

"I've taught him to not have any expectations for the five years we've been together," Dynda said. 

Crawford had a superstar practice round on Monday, playing with Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk and Wisconsin's own Steve Stricker.

"It was a lot of fun playing with those guys and just watching them strategize about learning a brand new U.S. Open course," Crawford said. "I think that's the biggest thing I was impressed with, was the way they talked about strategy on this golf course.

"They were all very nice with me and were very specific to ask about me and they wanted to learn a little bit about my life, so I appreciated that."

For Dynda, talking with Furyk brought back a fond memory. Furyk's father, Mike, actually sold Dynda his first set of golf clubs, Tommy Armor 845s, back in Philadelphia years ago. 

With one round in the books and the forecast calling for rain this weekend, Crawford was looking forward to having the proper mentality as he headed into Friday's second round.

"I want to go out there and just not get ahead of myself," Crawford said. "I'm going to think positively and appreciate that I'm playing in the national open."

Crawford teed off at 2:31 p.m. local time off of the 10th hole.

"This week is so cool because I never do something like this," Crawford said. "Playing in front of such large crowds is a treat and I just love the interaction with the fans before and after the rounds as well."

Last year at Oakmont, dozens of friends and family made the drive down the turnpike to see him play in his first U.S. Open. This year, Crawford estimates that he has around 15 friends and family out in the galleries cheering him on. Though coach Dynda caddied last year, those duties have gone to current Drexel golf coach Ben Feld.

It's a party this week of Drexel golf proportions.

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Philadelphia basketball fans will be getting a double dip of one of the Atlantic 10 conference's best rivalries once again next season.

With the league's 18-game regular season format in place for a fourth straight year, it was revealed Wednesday afternoon that Saint Joseph's and La Salle will battle twice — once in North Philly at Tom Gola Arena and a second time at the Hawks' home just off City Line Avenue. Each team in the 14-member conference will play eight teams once and five teams twice.

The full pairings for the Explorers and Saint Joe's are listed here:

La Salle
Home: Dayton, George Mason, St. Bonaventure, VCU, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis
Away: Davidson, Duquesne, George Washington, Richmond, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis

Saint Joseph’s
Home: Dayton, Duquesne, Saint Louis, VCU, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure
Away: Davidson, George Washington, Rhode Island, Richmond, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure

It was also rumored earlier in the day that the Hawks have added a Big Five matchup at Temple for Dec. 9.