Coming into Saturday evening's game against Massachusetts, a key ingredient to Saint Joseph's success was going to be limiting turnovers against the high-pressure defense of the Minutemen.
The Hawks didn't seem to get the memo as they committed 14 turnovers, nine of which came in the first half as Massachusetts (16-6, 6-3 Atlantic 10) walked away with a 80-62 victory over Saint Joseph's (13-9, 4-5 Atlantic 10) at the Mullins Center.
The game was delayed five hours due to poor road conditions after a blizzard paralyzed the Northeast, with Amherst receiving 21 and a half inches of snow from the winter storm.
Both teams looked like they were ready to get on the court after the delay as the opening minutes featured many high energy plays from each team. A Ronald Roberts dunk knotted the game at 24 with 6:07 to play in the first half.
Saint Joseph's would like to erase the rest of the first half from their memory.
UMass ended the first half on a 16-2 run, where the Hawks totally came unglued and dug themselves a hole that was ultimately too deep for them to dig themselves out of.
Saint Joseph's bench players combined for zero points and three turnovers during the first half. Daryus Quarles, Papa Ndao and Evan Maschmeyer were all inserted into the game at a point, but none of the trio stepped up to the plate.
Instead it was the Minutemen pushing the tempo, slamming home seven dunks in the first half and continually getting runouts as they built a 40-26 halftime lead.
Saint Joseph's made a run early in the second half to try and get back into the game. The Hawks scored the first eight points of the second half and a three-pointer from Langston Galloway brought the Hawks to within six with 17:27 to play. Galloway scored all eight points during the Hawks quick run.
However, Massachusetts scored the next five points after coach Derek Kellogg called a timeout and suddenly the Minutemen lead was back to double-digits just 25 seconds after the Hawks had cut the deficit to six.
The Hawks would make another run though and a three-pointer from Carl Jones brought Saint Joseph's to within four with 14:17 to play, 45-41.
Saint Joseph's would get no closer as turnovers continued to be a much bigger problem than expected from a veteran team.
When the Hawks weren't turning the ball over, many of the offensive possessions seemed disjointed. Saint Joseph's tried to go inside a bit more often than usual, but the overall spacing from the Hawks was poor.
Saint Joseph's made one final run as another three-pointer by Jones had brought the Hawks to within five with 6:57 left. But UMass countered by scoring the next 11 points, with nine of the 11 points coming either on uncontested lay-ups or dunks or on free throws from the Minutemen.
It was a sucker punch the Hawks could not recover from, as mistakes that would be expected out of a more youthful team were being made by a veteran-laden Saint Joseph's squad.
Saint Joseph's put four players in double figures with Galloway spearheading the effort with 14 points along with 7 assists while Jones added 13 points, Kanacevic netted 12 points and Roberts finished with 10 points in the losing effort.
Terrell Vinson led all scorers with 18 points for the Minutemen while Sampson Carter netted 16 points in the win. Chaz Williams, an All-Conference candidate at point guard scored 11 points while dishing out 9 assists.
This unsuccessful two game road trip for Saint Joseph's showed a lot of the vulnerabilities within this Hawks team. Quite simply, this team has not grown the way any observer of Saint Joseph's basketball, or even the Atlantic 10 expected them to.
In tonight's game, the inability to handle the pressure defense was a critical factor in the game for the Hawks, who committed 14 turnovers over the course of the contest versus just five for the Minutemen, the lowest total of the season for UMass.
Another clear problem for Saint Joseph's is the fact that the bench does not have the quality required to step up when two players find themselves in foul trouble. Martelli has not developed a bench with the requisite depth to compete for an NCAA Tournament birth.
Players like Quarles seem to have regressed, while Ndao and Maschmeyer find themselves involved too infrequently to develop any kind of rhythm or confidence in their play. Meanwhile, Isaiah Miles, a highly thought of freshman outside of the program who showed an ability to score regularly when he was used during the non-conference schedule, has been buried on the bench and has not appeared for more than one minute in any Atlantic 10 game so far.
With seven games left in the regular season, the Hawks have already run out of time to meet the expectations of their fans as well as other observers, barring an incredible run over the last half of the conference schedule. At this point they have to try and fix the glaring problems that have reared their ugly heads, especially during this road trip.
Not only is this Hawk team underachieving, if the season continues on this downswing, they could perhaps become known the biggest underachievers in the program's recent history.
Saint Joseph's gets a chance to show the level of pride they have in saving their season on Wednesday as they return home for a 7 p.m. tip-off against Richmond at Hagan Arena.