The Hawks Answered a Challenge in a 69 – 61 Win Over Penn
PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/10/2023 –
This is the first Big Five game for both teams under the new format. New format, new season, new players, but still showed the intensity of a Big Five game. The Saint Joseph’s Hawks got out to a lead, then withstood a rally by the University of Pennsylvania Quakers to win 69 – 61 in front of a raucous crowd at the Hagan Arena.
“For two days we talked about earning a Big Five win with effort and endurance,” said Saint Joseph’s coach Billy Lange. “I thought our defensive effort was terrific. And I thought our endurance emotionally on their run was great. That’s what these games require.”
In the new format each team in their respective pod will play each other to decide pod standings. Then will play the team with the same standing in the other pod. The top teams in each division will play for the title. Each game has meaning as it will be difficult to overcome a pod loss to play for the championship. A win has importance, and Saint Joseph’s wants those wins.
“It’s pretty important,” observed Saint Joseph’s guard Lynn Greer III who scored a team-high tying 13 points. “Regardless of the tournament thing I think we take those games personally because we want to be the best team in Philly. We go into those games and want to dog everybody, really.”
And the atmosphere was exciting spurring on each team, a lift for the Hawks and a learning experience for the Quakers.
“The crowd tonight was crazy,” said Greer III. “It’s a blessing to play in the Big Five and be from Philly.”
“That was an incredible environment,” said Penn Coach Steve Donahue. “The student section was great and that had a lot to do with our first half. We’re just not used to that. We have six new players out there. Three or four have really big roles who never had that role before. It was a great college basketball environment.”
The Game Sequence
The contest started well for the Hawks who took a 33 – 20 lead into halftime. In the second half the lead increased to 52 – 33 with 12 minutes to play on a three-pointer by SJU freshman guard Xzayvier Brown. Saint Joe’s appeared to be in control. The Red and Blue answered back getting to within 2 points on three different occasions, the last coming at the 3:42 mark on a layup by Quakers freshman guard Tyler Perkins.
“I think we did a good job of trusting the offense more in the second half,” Penn guard Clark Slajchert who scored a game-high 27 points said. “They tried to blow up our action and we gave into the pressure. That’s partly because we’re inexperienced, but did a good job of handling that pressure and getting into good action. That’s how we started getting better looks in the second half.
Penn cut the deficit to 63 – 59 as 3:06 showed on the clock. Slajchert went to the free throw line for a chance to get his team to within two-points. He missed the first free throw, but center Nick Spinoso rebounded the miss for the Red and Blue. He went back up, but his shot was blocked by Kacper Klaczek. Cameron Brown corralled the rebound for the Hawks and got the ball to Greer III whose layup increased the lead to 65 – 59.
“I want to go back to the endurance,” Lange said. “Things happen in the game of basketball. You can sit there and watch it go in and let your emotions take over. Or you can keep attacking and be a Saint Joe’s basketball player. That’s a big play for us.”
Later in the game Penn closed to within 65 – 60. On a late possession Saint Joe’s looked for a critical basket. The shot clock would down. The ball went to guard Erik Reynolds II. He made a move towards the basket and scored the dagger layup with one second on the shot clock and 35 on the game clock.
What the Numbers Say
Greer III set a career-mark with 11 assists.
“I was just passing the ball to my teammates and they were knocking down shots,” Greer III said about his performance.
He got the ball to his teammates, and nine of ten Hawks who played scored.
Reynolds II scored 13 points. Redshirt Freshman center Christ Essandoko made his presence felt scoring 9 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Five Philadelphia area residents who played for Saint Joe’s made an impact in the game more than just a statistical entry. And they knew how much these games matter.
“That’s why you have to have Philly guys in these games, you have to,” Lange emphasized.
Saint Joseph’s is 2 – 0 on the season and 1 – 0 in their Big Five pod.
Penn stands at 2 – 1, 0 – 1 in the Big Five, and have a Monday game with Villanova. Their road to the title is now difficult.
“I’m excited for the format,” Donahue said. “We’ve got to beat Villanova to stay in it. We just compete. I do love what we have.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian