St. Joseph’s pulls away from Wake Forest in Myrtle Beach Invitational opener

CONWAY, S.C., November 15, 2018 – In the world of college basketball, coaches often throw out phrases such as “toughness” and “determination.” But Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli had a more gentle word in mind to describe the Hawks’ 89-69 victory over Wake Forest in the opening game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

“The second half,” Martelli declared, “was really beautiful basketball.”

It certainly was effective basketball for St. Joe’s. The Hawks (3-0) quickly broke open a game that was tied 46-46 at halftime by making 53.3 percent of their shots in the second half, holding Wake Forest to 30.4 percent shooting, outrebounding the Demon Deacons 21-12 and playing such stifling defense that Wake managed only a single assist.

“The first two or three possessions in the second half we got really tight, really dialed in,” Martelli said. “I thought, ‘OK, we can go with this.’ ”

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Wake Forest coach Danny Manning wasn’t nearly as pleased with what he saw from his young team, which has nine players who are either freshmen or sophomores.

“The second half was the tale of the game,” Manning said. “They came out and imposed their will, and we weren’t able to prevent that from happening. … There are some things we did well. But it’s not about doing one or two things well. It’s about doing enough things collectively to win the game.”

St. Joe’s sophomore forward Charlie Brown Jr. led all scorers with 26 points, including 17 in the second half on 6-of-8 shooting.

“Watching him on tape doesn’t do him justice,” Manning said of Brown. “We just couldn’t do enough to slow him down.”

The Deacs (1-1) had four players score in double figures, though junior guard Brandon Childress was the only member of that group to shoot better than 38 percent from the field. The rest often looked like the freshmen and sophomores that they are.

“We were just older than them in the second half,” Martelli said. “I thought if we could really come at them, with the young team they have, that they’d have a tough time holding up.”

UCF 68, Cal State Fullerton 52

The first thing that UCF senior guard B.J. Taylor wanted to talk about following the Knights’ 68-52 victory over Cal State Fullerton was the team’s defensive effort. And that is exactly what UCF coach Johnny Dawkins wants to hear from his players.

“Guess who’s been saying that to them a lot the last few weeks,” Dawkins said with a laugh. “We’ve made a conscious effort to have an identity, something we can do every night to be successful. So we hung out hat on the defensive end.”

The Knights (2-1) certainly did that against Fullerton (1-2), which had averaged 100 points per game to open the season. The Titans sank only 25 percent of their shots in the first half in falling behind 32-22 at halftime, and UCF maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

The Titans appeared sluggish in their first game after traveling 2,500 miles from California to South Carolina, though coach Dedrique Taylor did not want to use that as an excuse.

“The travel is part of being able to participate in these types of events,” Taylor said. “You have to deal with it and accept it, and you still have to be ready to rock-n-roll. Yeah, we took a long flight, but it’s not like we were on a bus.

“When you get these opportunities, you have to take advantage of them, and I don’t feel like we did. It’s something we have to learn from and get better from, because it’s not like we’re going home tonight. We’re going to be playing even earlier tomorrow.”