PHILADELPHIA-- In a season of change for Saint Joseph’s University men’s basketball, they’ve seemed to have finally found a consistent scorer after losing their top three from last season.
Forward Charlie Brown Jr., who led the Hawks with 19.0 points per game, declared early for the NBA Draft and is now on a two-way contract with Atlanta Hawks and their G League affiliate. Lamarr Kimble and Jared Bynum transferred out of the program to play for Louisville and Providence, respectively.
Newly appointed head coach Billy Lange has found that point leader in guard Ryan Daly. Daly, who graduated from Archbishop Carroll and whose accolades include MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League and Markward Club City Player of the year (2016) is in his first season of eligibility with the Hawks after spending two seasons at Delaware. The 6’5” redshirt-junior is averaging 22.0 per game through ten games and his last game against No. 23 Villanova wasn’t any different. Daly led the Hawks with 32 points in a 78-66 loss to the Wildcats at the Hagan Arena. Daly, who played all but 52 seconds, made 11 shots out of 22 attempts from the field and only missed one free throw out of 11 attempts.
“Thirty-two is great,” Daly said. “I mean we lost, which takes away part of it obviously. There were a few possessions there that I’d like to have back.”
The Hawks couldn’t win despite the season-high scoring from Daly. The rest of the Hawks only scored 34 points and their next highest scorer was freshman guard Cameron Brown, who only scored eight points.
Daly helped the Hawks stay in the game in the second half. The Hawks pulled within three when Brown hit a three-pointer to make the score 63-60 with 4:51 remaining in the game. The Wildcats went on a 15-6 run to end the game to pull away from the Hawks. Back-to-back jumpers from sophomore forward Saddiq Bey and freshman guard Justin Moore gave the Wildcats a 69-62 lead with 3:06 remaining. After a jumper from Daly made it 69-64, Villanova used free throws for the rest of the game to ensure the 78-66 win.
A strong shooting performance also helped the Hawks make it a close game in the second half. The Hawks made 53.57 percent of their shots from the field in the last 20 minutes. The Hawks also made five three pointers in the second half after missing their first 11 attempts in the first half. The Hawks got their first three pointer nearly 90 seconds into the second half on a shot from junior forward Lorenzo Edwards at the top of the key. The Hawks started the half on a 13-3 run.
“I think once we got stops honestly,” said Daly on what changed for Saint Joe’s in the second half. “We got the ball in transition. We got easy shots. Cam had some big buckets. Lorenzo hit a top of the key shot. We call it a rugby action. Just getting the ball in transition.”
The first half was a different story as the Wildcats dominated with a 41-25 lead heading into halftime. The Wildcats shot 55 percent from the field while the Hawks only made 27 percent.
Junior guard and 2017 Archbishop Wood graduate Collin Gillespie, who finished with 20 points, scored 13 of his points in the first half. The Hawks’ defense limited Gillespie to seven points in the second half. Gillespie committed four fouls overall, which limited him to 27 minutes of play.
Bey was Villanova’s highest scorer with 22 points. Bey made seven of his 13 attempts from the field and finished one rebound short of a double-double. Moore added 14 points while making seven field goals out of 11 attempts. Junior forward Jermaine Samuels also scored in the double digits with 12 points. Samuels also grabbed seven rebounds.
Bey said having a year under his belt has prepared him for close games like the one with the Hawks.
With close wins against La Salle (83-72) and Penn (80-69), the road to reclaiming the Big 5 trophy hasn’t been easy. The Wildcats are now 3-0 in Big 5 play with a match up with Temple left.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright hopes the Big 5 can get more attention, especially with all of its close games.
“I wish there was a way we could nationally get that out there more because they are great games,” Wright said. “I’ve always thought we should somehow get the Big 5 to be more national.”
Bey noted the “intensity” of the Big 5 matches, but said the team is taking a game-by-game approach.
“I know it sounds cliché, but we just look at every game the same,” Bey said. “Every game, we try to be the best team we can be. We know the intensity of these games, so we just try to keep a great mindset every game and try to make the next game our biggest game.”
The next Big 5 match-up for Villanova is against Temple on Sunday, Feb. 16th. Game time is 1 p.m. at the Liacouras Center.