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.”

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Xavier stuns Arizona to reach Elite Eight

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Xavier stuns Arizona to reach Elite Eight

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Trevon Bluiett scored 25 points, Sean O'Mara scored inside with 40 seconds left and No. 11 seed Xavier upset No. 2 Arizona 73-71 in the West Region on Thursday night.

Xavier (30-13) stayed with the second-seeded Wildcats behind Bluiett's 18 first-half points and tracked down the Wildcats after they tried to pull away in the second half. O'Mara scored on a power move inside, but missed a free throw to give Arizona (32-5) a final chance.

Allonzo Trier missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds and Xavier was able to dribble out the clock, earning its first trip to the Elite Eight since 2008.

The Musketeers held Arizona scoreless over the final 2:52 to earn a sport in the West final against No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Saturday.

Trier scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half and Dusan Ristic had 17 for Arizona (see full recap).

Gonzaga escapes in wild finish for win
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Jordan Mathews hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with under a minute to play and top-seeded Gonzaga survived a rough shooting night for both teams to beat No. 4 seed West Virginia 61-58 Thursday night to advance to the West Regional final.

On a night that featured 51 fouls and only 34 made baskets, Mathews delivered the big shot that sent the Bulldogs (35-1) to their third Elite Eight in school history.

It didn't come easily. West Virginia (29-8) had three shots to tie the game but Tarik Phillip missed a shot from the lane and Jevon Carter missed two 3-pointers after Silas Melson made one foul shot. The Mountaineers rebound both misses but couldn't get another shot off before the buzzer (see full recap).

Oregon survives to end Michigan’s run
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tyler Dorsey scored 20 points and made the go-ahead layup with 1:08 left, and third-seeded Oregon ended No. 7 Michigan's dramatic postseason run with a 69-68 victory in a Midwest Regional semifinal on Thursday night.

Dorsey, the man the Ducks call "Mr. March," had his sixth straight game scoring 20 or more points.

The Wolverines (27-11) had one more chance to extend their run after Dylan Ennis missed a free throw with 15 seconds left. But Derrick Walton, who had carried the Wolverines the last three weeks, was off with his long jumper just before the buzzer.

Jordan Bell had a double-double for the Ducks (32-5), with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Pac-12 player of the year Dylan Brooks added 12 points and Dylan Ennis had 10.

Walton led the Wolverines with 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Zak Irvin had 14 of his 19 points in the second half and DJ Wilson had 12 points.

Oregon plays Kansas or Purdue on Saturday in the regional final (see full recap).

Kansas throttles Purdue to advance
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Player of the year front-runner Frank Mason III poured in 26 points, Kansas turned on the jets in the second half and the top-seeded Jayhawks soared to a 98-66 blowout of No. 4 seed Purdue on Thursday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals.

Devonte Graham also had 26 points and Josh Jackson had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Jayhawks (31-4), who led by 7 at halftime before their up-and-down pace finally wore down the Boilermakers.

Kansas used two big runs, including an 11-0 charge highlighted by Lagerald Vicks' 360-degree drunk, to coast into a matchup with No. 3 seed Oregon on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four (see full recap).

The Ducks survived a nail-biter against Michigan earlier in the night.

Caleb Swanigan had 18 points and seven boards for the Boilermakers (27-8), but the 6-foot-9, 250-pound All-America candidate had to work for all of it.

Georgetown fires John Thompson III after another losing year

Georgetown fires John Thompson III after another losing year

WASHINGTON -- John Thompson III was fired as Georgetown's basketball coach Thursday after two consecutive losing seasons at the school his father led to a national championship.

Thompson said in a statement released by agent David Falk that he was "honored" to have been the Hoyas' coach and proud of what his players have "accomplished on the court and how they are thriving since leaving Georgetown."

"Georgetown Basketball has been a part of my life since 1972," Thompson's statement said, referring to the year his father took over as the Hoyas' coach, "which makes this moment even more impactful, but I look forward to my next chapter."

School president John DeGioia told Thompson on Thursday he would not be brought back next year at a basketball program strongly associated with his last name.

"Our tradition of excellence as a university will forever be inextricably linked with John and his family," DeGioia said in a statement. "We are committed to taking the necessary steps to strengthen our program and maintaining the highest levels of academic integrity and national competitiveness."

Thompson, known as "JT3," was Georgetown's head coach for 13 seasons, including a run to the Final Four in 2007 with future NBA players Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert on the roster. But he went a combined 29-36 the past two years, with some of those defeats punctuated by crowd chants of "Fire Thompson!"

What had once been unimaginable -- a Thompson being sent away from Georgetown -- became a topic of conversation among the team's fans as the losses mounted. When the subject was broached with Thompson after a defeat against defending national champion Villanova, a team spokesman jumped in to say: "Leave it to game-related questions, please."

The Hoyas' 14-18 record this season included six losses in a row to finish and marked the team's worst winning percentage since the 1950s. They went 15-18 a year ago, losing seven of their last eight games.

"We're not going to keep rehashing last year," Thompson said before the start of this season. "A lot of introspection where you just stop and, from top to bottom, look at everything: How you do things, how you approach things, how we should change things, how you should alter things. ... We have to make some changes on how things were done, and we have. We're in the process of doing it."

Not quickly enough, apparently.

Thompson's record was 278-151 at Georgetown, with eight trips to the NCAA Tournament.

Since that lone Final Four appearance a decade ago, the Hoyas had several missteps at the Big Dance, going 3-6 and never winning more than one game in any single bracket. There were plenty of memorable exits against low-seeded opponents such as Florida Gulf Coast and Ohio.

His father, John Thompson Jr., led the Hoyas to 20 trips to the NCAAs, three Final Fours and a national title in 1984 with Patrick Ewing at center while coaching the team from 1972-99. "Big John," as many call him, has been a visible and vocal presence at Georgetown's games during his son's tenure, often sitting in on news conferences and interjecting his thoughts from the back of the room.

Georgetown's new on-campus practice facility, which was opened with a dedication ceremony in October, is named after the older Thompson.