December 21, 2020 –
It was a quick turnaround for the Saint Joseph’s Hawks. After playing nationally ranked Villanova on Saturday night, Saint Joe’s faced the 8th ranked Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville. It was the third game in five days for SJU. The Volunteers got off to a strong start and rode that to a 102 – 66 win.
“They are a great team,” said Saint Joseph’s Coach Billy Lange about the opponent. “We’ve played three top-ten teams and they have very few weaknesses. They make it really hard, condense the paint, and make three’s like that at the start of the game, makes it challenging.”
Tennessee got off to a 20 – 4 lead in just over six minutes and established themselves. Saint Joseph’s fought back, but could not cut into the deficit. The Vols defense kept the Hawks from mounting a serious run making 23 of 58 shots and just 5 of 24 from beyond the arc. Tennessee gives up an average of just under 50 points per game.
After falling behind out of the gate, Saint Joe’s had to rely on their defense and compete. Lange saw the Hawks dig in despite the score.
“I am looking for can we emotionally and mentally stay in a game with a young group. I thought we fought,” Lange said. “We had a nice little run halfway through the first half if we get two more stops and two more scores, it’s a different game. I look for our effort and these games elevate us and make us better, and effort is a big part of that.”
Meanwhile UT got balanced scoring to keep the separation. Six players scored in scored in double figures led by Victor Bailey, Jr. who had a game-high 18 points. Yves Pons added 13 points while taking down a game-best 9 rebounds. Santiago Vesconi added 16 points and handed out 5 assists. The Vols converted half of their field goal attempts, and drained 10 of 24 from beyond the arc.
Four Saint Joseph’s players scored in double digits. Ryan Daly was the top scorer getting 13 and was the leading rebounder for the team with 7 boards. Dahmir Bishop contributed 12 points. Taylor Funk and Rahmir Moore had 10 points each. The Hawks outscored the Volunteers 32 – 30 in the paint.
Fouls were a problem for SJU as they had 30 which allowed UT (5 – 0) to go to the line 37 times converting 30.
This was the third time playing a nationally ranked opponent. The Hawks (0 – 5) get some time off then will get ready for Atlantic 10 play meeting VCU at the end of the month. At least that is as of now. The coach sees that seeds are being planted for the future.
“The team is growing,” Lange said. “The program is growing, and those are the things we are looking for. We are not happy with the outcome, but we are happy with the progress. That’s what we are going to focus on right now.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian