CASTINE, Maine — It has taken four years, but Saint Joseph’s College men’s basketball coach Rob Sanicola thinks he finally has the pieces in place to play the kind of style the Monks exhibited Tuesday night.
It was Saint Joseph’s first game of the season, but the Monks looked anything but rusty or inexperienced as they outhustled and outran Maine Maritime Academy en route to an 83-57 victory at Smith Gymnasium.
“We pride ourselves on our deflections and disrupting whatever they’re doing,” Sanicola said. “We want to take teams away from what they want to do and I think we did that.
“MMA is powerful inside and if we played half-court with them, it wouldn’t be our strength and it would be a battle.”
Mariners coach Chris Murphy wasn’t so sure about that.
“I don’t think that would have made a whole lot of difference,” said Murphy, whose Mariners are now 1-1. “With their quickness inside, we weren’t able to enter the ball to the post because they were going top side to low and taking the angles away from us. We really had a hard time.”
The statistics bear him out. The Monks helped force 15 turnovers in the first half en route to 21 total while committing just 13 themselves. They shot 51.6 percent for the game from the field despite just 25 percent from 3-point range and despite a respectable 45.1 effort from MMA.
“I think we did a good job of pressing them and getting hands on the ball, especially in the first half,” said senior forward Mitch Ouellet of Fort Kent, noting his team’s 43-23 halftime lead. “We got a lot of tips and touches to set off our transition game.
“Not a lot of teams can run with us and we’re very athletic, so we want to get out and going and tire them out.”
The Monks also outrebounded the bigger Mariners 35-27 overall and 14-10 on the offensive boards.
Elbie Murphy led a balanced Saint Joe’s scoring attack with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists. Chris Davis scored 11 while Tyler Kelley, Chris Petzy and Zach O’Brien each scored 10. Augusta’s Scot Vachon dished out a game-high five assists.
Derek DiFrederico, a senior guard from Millinocket, led the Mariners with 20 points despite being the focus of the Monks’ hybrid 3-2 matchup zone and man-to-man defensive effort.
“We tried to focus on him because he’s a guy who can stretch the defense, especially when you’re putting two guys on the ball,” Sanicola said. “A little of our plan was taking the ball out of his hands and making them feel uncomfortable with a straight 32 man and trying to get after it.”
DiFrederico was held back, distribution-wise, with just two assists against four turnovers and two steals.
Jarred Sternbergh of Jonesboro had 12 points for the Mariners. Jake Manner of Frankfort posted a game-high nine rebounds to go with seven points.