PHILADELPHIA– Went on a little Philadelphia excursion today checking out Saint Joseph’s in the afternoon and Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center in the evening. Here’s what I saw from my perspective:
Saint Joseph’s 81, George Washington 69
This game wasn’t even close from the get-go. The Hawks leaped out to a 16-1 lead at the first media timeout with 16:00 to go in the first half.
St. Joe’s jumped out of the gate on the offensive end knocking down a couple threes and stifling the Colonels defense. In a truly dominating first half, St Joe’s led 47-27.
“Sometimes they miss shots, we make shots and it just happens,” St. Joe’s head coach Billy Lange said. “I don’t know if it’s anything magical or coaching, I think our guys were intentional, they missed shots that they could’ve made, we made shots that we could’ve missed and we got out to a big lead and I felt like we kept a great pace and a great intentionality for the rest of the game.”
It felt like St. Joe’s who are winners of now seven of their last nine, were looking to prove a point to someone or something.
“The last time we played in this building we were not as wired in terms of our intentionality as we need to be and that’s also a credit to La Salle,” Lange said. “But you just can’t take being at home for granted after you win on the road or you win a game or two in a row.”
The 73-65 loss to La Salle last Sunday might’ve drove St. Joe’s teams of the past to go into a slump, but the Hawks have responded nicely now winning two in a row since that game.
“We talked a lot about becoming the most united team we could be by the end of the season,” Lange said. “The newness of the group, the youth of the group at this current stage of college basketball there wasn’t anything else we could set as a goal per se.”
A big reason why St. Joe’s played so well on Saturday was their guard duo of Lynn Greer III and Erik Reynolds.
The duo combined for 46 points with Reynolds scoring 24 and Greer scoring 22. Greer also added eight rebounds and six assists.
A highly touted recruit coming out of Roman Catholic, Greer, who is the son of Temple legend Lynn Greer II, was receiving offers and interest from plenty of high power schools.
He chose to go the prep route in 2020-21 and decided on Dayton as his choice to continue his career.
Greer played in just 10 games with the Flyers before deciding it was time to transfer out of there and he picked St. Joe’s.
While he is a sophomore and is in his second season, Lange sees the 20-year old Greer as a freshman not based on age, but experience.
“To me, your age is not relevant, your experience is relevant,” Lange said. “So his experience is great high school career, prep school year during COVID, 10 games last year, transfers, I don’t look at him like he’s older, I look at him like he’s inexperienced so what does that mean? He has to get game experience and then he needs to get coaching experience, what’s the relationship like, what’s the responsibility like, what’s the accountability like, what’s the leadership like, and so from that standpoint I try not to look at his age because I think a lot of people do and then they don’t give him the grace to improve which I think he needs.”
“Lynn is now three quarters of the way through what is his freshman year so he’s getting better, Erik is now three quarters of the way through his sophomore year with being probably the main target on a scouting report so this is all brand new to them and I think they’re learning the responsibility that it takes,” Lange added. “They don’t have any other choice but to bring it, with our style of play your guards have to have ownership and I think they began to understand that they got to do it and now the stats are matching.”
The win puts St. Joe’s at 13-12 on the year and 7-6 in the A10, going over the .500 mark.
Two big road games await St. Joe’s this upcoming week, going on the road to Duquesne on Wednesday the 15th and then going down to Davidson on Saturday the 18th.
Lange made it clear: It’s exam week.
“It’s exam week for us next week and it’s not the end of the season but we’re going to learn,” Lange said. “Anything that happens next week is going to be good for us, it’s going to be good for the team, it’s going to be good for the growth and development of the program with some of these guys back next year so we’re going to find out exactly where we are in terms of just getting some feedback, irregardless of the result I just want to know have we grown, have we developed, have we matured on the road, these are going to be two hard games.”
Villanova 58, Seton Hall 54
It was a classic muck it up and ‘you better like getting ugly because it’s gonna get ugly’ type of game.
Not ugly in the sense that it was out of hand or any altercations broke out, but ugly in the sense that, this ain’t gonna be pretty and there wasn’t going to be a lot of scoring.
Remember how earlier St. Joe’s went up 16-1 at the first media timeout in their game? This game was tied at 3 apiece in the same time frame.
Seton Hall didn’t get to double digits until the 9:52 mark of the first half. Villanova didn’t crack double digits until 7:43.
Thank God for Eric Dixon and Caleb Daniels in that first half because without them, it would’ve been a lot worse.
Dixon had 13 and Caleb Daniels had 11 and the rest of the team had three, courtesy of a Cam Whitmore triple.
Somehow, it was enough to give the Wildcats the halftime lead 27-20.
“I’m really proud of our guys defensive effort, I thought we played hard all night.” Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune said.
A muck it up game is suited more for the big guys rather than the guards and Villanova took advantage of that with Dixon who finished with 19 points on the night.
“We called a couple things for him but most of our stuff comes out of a free flowing offense and that was just the read based off of how we’re playing defense for a lot of it,” Neptune said. “Our guys do a good job of sharing the ball especially when they see them in a good position for us.”
Daniels was also the other star of the game for Villanova as he finished not only with 18 points, but he scored his 1,000th point in a Villanova uniform.
“It just so happened that it was a part of my journey and I’m thankful for it.” Daniels said.
While the final score looks close (and potentially backbreaking to Villanova -5 bettors), Villanova seemed to have a good control on this game outside of a few moments in the second half and of course to start the first half.
Seton Hall went on a run to cut the lead to one and right after that, Villanova went on a run of their own, creating a steady cushion that took them to the end of the game.
“I thought we got a couple stops and a couple turnovers, we got out in transition,” Neptune said. “For most teams it starts with your defense, if you don’t get stops and get into your offense quickly before they set up, that’s normally the best way to score.”
Villanova welcomed back Jordan Longino tonight, who missed the previous nine games with a strained left hamstring. He played a little over 14 minutes and grabbed two rebounds and had one assist. Neptune said he was on a minutes restriction tonight.
“He’s been a warrior,” Neptune said. “Can’t say enough good stuff about that kid, even when he was playing he might’ve been at 60 percent there’s a lot of people right now who would not have played for most of the season, he fought to come back, if you look at his body he completely changed his body while he was out, I can’t say enough positive things about him and his road to recovery and that he decided to come back after having a couple of injuries this year.”
Now, Villanova is pretty much fully healthy minus Nnanna Njoku who would provide decent depth minutes at the 5 behind Dixon.
Winners of two straight, and a potentially healthy team, Villanova might be primed for a little bit of a run right now.
“While they’ve been out I think it’s been good that guys got some time to kind of grow up a little bit and I think it’s paying dividends now.” Neptune said.
“It’s a scary look honestly,” Daniels said. “I think it’s great we have all our guys back around.”