Men’s basketball beats Emmanuel College in blowout

Sophomore Ian Carmichael prepares to dunk.

Andrew Wuebker, Sports Editor

In the opening game of the Courtyard by Marriott Tip-Off Tournament at Roger Williams University on Friday, Nov. 17, the Hawks defeated the visiting Emmanuel College Saints 75-58.

Senior guard Nick Marini tallied a near double-double with 17 points, nine assists and five rebounds while fellow senior forward Jaylen Jennings added 16 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Austin Coene added 13 points.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Jennings on starting the year 2-0. “Just ready to close it out tomorrow.”

Unlike the first game of the season when the Hawks were engaged in a closely-contested affair with Coast Guard Academy, there was no worry in the Hawks’ minds on this night. Emmanuel started the game with the opening bucket on a fastbreak layup after a Coene turnover, but was the only lead they would have as the Hawks eventually built a cushion as large as 25 in the second-half.

The Hawks’ defense was stifling throughout the evening, forcing the Saints to shoot 30.3 percent from the floor and forced them into 17 turnovers.

“I think that end of the floor was really good,” said Hawks Head Coach Michael Tully. “We really guarded them, kept them out of the lane. They didn’t get a lot of penetration and we contested perimeter shots, got hands up on 3-point shooters. So as far as that goes defensively, we were pretty good.”

On the flip side, the Hawks’ offense had it a little rough in the first-half. Emmanuel’s decision to pressure the ball full-court at times kept RWU from getting into their offense as quickly and efficiently as they would have liked, but still got out to a 37-26 halftime lead. In the second period, the Hawks began to pull away after making offensive adjustments at the break.

“I thought collectively as a team in the second-half, what we talked to them about was being more patient reversing the ball because we didn’t do that in the first-half,” Tully said. “They pressured us, played us full court, we just tried to go right away and they made us play quick… They did a good job of clogging up the lane and keeping Nick and Austin out of there. When they moved the ball and reversed it, broke them down a little bit, we got good shots and that’s what we did in the second-half. That was the difference.”

It also helped to have Jennings in the mix. The fourth-year player who is now a captain this year was a significant factor in the Hawks pulling away in the final 20 minutes.

Purely known for being a sharpshooter from 3-point land in the past, Jennings came into this season with the goal of expanding his game and clearly showed it on this night.

In addition to his 16 points, Jennings’ activity on defense and rebounding was a major standout. On multiple occasions, Jennings came away with tough rebounds in traffic and was pushed and knocked to the floor. He could be seen clapping his hands on defense and impacting shots with his length.

In two second-half sequences however, it was his offense that shined, with 15:35 to go in the half Jennings buried a triple, then followed up with a layup on the next possession. Just over two minutes later, Jennings performed the same exact sequence and was clearly fired up, pushing the Hawks’ lead to 18.

“I would say it was just my teammates setting me up for opportunities made it easier for me to get my shot off,” said Jennings on scoring 10 of his 16 points in the second-half. “I felt like the first-half they were kind of pressuring me more, taking my shot away, so second-half I felt like it opened up.”

The shots were falling for the Hawks indeed, as they shot 49 percent from the floor and 42 percent from 3-point range, but the fun for the Hawks didn’t stop there. Marini had the highlight play of the day with a behind-the-back crossover in the first-half that sent his defender well the opposite way.

Despite the win, RWU doesn’t have much time to rest as they hit the court for the second game of a back-to-back on Saturday. Tully spoke on the potential impact the back-to-back will have on his players.

“I think it’s gonna be the same for both teams,” he said. “These guys are conditioned. Conor [O’Brien] didn’t play a lot of minutes. Nick played 30, but Austin only played 23 and I think we got some really good minutes out of a lot of guys — we played 11 guys — and then got some other guys in the last four minutes so I thought that was good. I thought JJ Pfohl though he doesn’t have any points in the stat sheet had a really good game because he just did a lot of good things. He was in the right spot, he got three rebounds. He’s a really good presence out there. I thought Drew Hart gave us some really good minutes too. And then Ian Carmichael played tonight and he came in and gave us some good minutes, four rebounds, and when Conor got in foul trouble, I thought that was really good to see him and Dalton Prendergast both help out there.”

Jennings took an enthusiastic approach to the back-to-back and was excited for the game.

“I actually think it’s exciting. The more games the better,” Jennings said with a smile. “Yeah, just rest up. Get ready for tomorrow and get prepared.”

Up next: The Hawks play Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 3 p.m. in the final game of the Courtyard by Marriott Tip-Off Tournament.