By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Basketball fans on Hawk Hill are anxiously awaiting Wednesday night, when St. Joe’s plays its 2013-14 home opener, hosting Marist.
The Hawks opened the season in style on Saturday night as they traveled up to New England and beat the University of Vermont, 74-64.
“I was especially pleased for the players,” St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli tells KYW Newsradio. “To go on the road, five seniors returning for Vermont, a team that played in the postseason last year (College Basketball Invitational), come out of the box and shoot 65% in the first half, and then withstand a great Vermont run. We did not run particularly good offense in the second half (shot 27% from field) and we came away with a good win. Hopefully, the players (are) feeling good about themselves, and we have a lot to practice. Which is a good thing.”
The Hawks went 18-14 last season, losing to St. John’s in the opening round of the NIT. Three of their top five scorers are back in senior guard Langston Galloway (21 points against Vermont) and senior forwards Ronald Roberts Jr (21 points, 9 rebounds against Vermont) and Halil Kanacevic.
“The key for our season is really this day and this day alone,” Martelli says. “We have to improve. We have to have players improve across the board. We have to improve them physically, mentally. College basketball is dictated so much by guard play, we’re going to need real good guard play. We’re going to need our bench to stay engaged, and to almost force my hand to play them more and more. Added depth will allow our starters, who are all very good players, a chance to get proper rest and be playing their best basketball come what we hope is an early spring in Philadelphia.”
Marist is 0-2 on the young season. They lost at Stony Brook, 71-55, to open the season on Friday and followed that up with a home loss on Sunday to Elon, 75-48.
“They have a new coach, Jeff Bower, who has been in the NBA for a significant amount of time,” Martelli says. “And you can see that in their play. They get involved in a lot of isolation, they take you on the dribble.”
Martelli wants to make sure his players maintain their edge as they get ready to play in front of a friendly crowd.
“A lot of times guys get real comfortable, and they think that the noise is going to carry the day,” Martelli says. “When it really has to be your play that carries the day. And that will be a message that will be given to the players, repeatedly, over the next several days. That it’s about our play, not about the noise or the comforts of being home.”
St. Joe’s and Marist will tip-off at 7:00pm on Wednesday night at Hagan Arena.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.