Jan. 7, 2009
PHILADELPHIA - Saint Joseph's (6-7) will tip off the Atlantic 10 Conference season on Saturday, January 10, when it hosts Rhode Island (11-4) at The Palestra. The 2 p.m. game will be televised locally on Comcast SportsNet.
Tom McCarthy and John Griffin will call the action while the Saint Joseph's Sports Network team of Matt Martucci and Joe Lunardi will broadcast the game on WNTP (990 AM). Streaming audio will also be available on www.sjuhawks.com free of charge as provided by Stretch Internet. Streaming video will also be available thru a subscription to Hawks' All-Access.
**Traffic Advisory: On Saturday from 6:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., 34th Street between Walnut & Spruce will be closed. Options for fans are to take the University Ave. Exit and go over to Convention Ave., instead of 30th St. If using 30th St., take that to Market St. and then take 38th Street to Spruce.
GAME NOTES This matches the latest starting date for a conference opener for the Hawks since they opened A-10 play against top-ranked UMass on Jan. 10, 1996, when the Minutemen scored a 94-89 overtime win in Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse. Last season, SJU opened league play against UMass on January 9. Saint Joseph's has won nine of its last 10 Atlantic 10 openers and has posted a 10-3 record in the first conference game of the year during Phil Martelli's tenure. The Hawks have yet to put together back-to-back wins this season. SJU snapped a two-game losing streak with the win at Ball State. Senior Ahmad Nivins tops the Hawks with a league-leading six double-doubles in the first 13 games. He's averaging 18.8 points and 10.2 rebounds. Garrett Williamson ranks second in the Atlantic 10 in assist/turnover ratio (2.26). The junior fell two points shy of a triple-double when he had 8 points-10 rebounds-10 assists at Towson. Ahmad Nivins leads the A-10 in field goal percentage (.685) and ranks third nationally. He also tops the league in offensive rebounds (4.2) and minutes played (38.2). Ahmad Nivins has joined a group of 10 players in Saint Joseph's history to record over 1,400 points and 700 rebounds.
LAST TIME OUT: Ahmad Nivins had 19 points and Tasheed Carr scored 18 as Saint Joseph's defeated Ball State, 63-55, in non-league action at Worthen Arena, to end a two-game losing streak. The Hawks fell behind early, as Ball State took a 20-11 lead with over 10 minutes to play in the first half. But Carr hit a 3-pointer at 10:01 and proceeded to score a total of 12 of his 14 first-half points in a 14-8 Saint Joseph's run that gave the Hawks the 28-20 lead at halftime. SJU maintained the lead throughout the second half, as Nivins got on track and made 5-of-7 from the field and scored 12 points in the second half alone. The Hawks led by as much as 58-44 with 1:35 to play. The Cardinals run cut the SJU lead to 60-55 at :33. But Carr was perfect from the line in the final minute and hit two with :30 to play, while Nivins made one free throw at :13 to seal the win. Saint Joseph's shot 46 percent from the field but was outrebounded by the home team, 38-29, despite eight boards from Nivins. The Hawks limited their turnovers to 10, committing just three in the second half.
SEEING DOUBLE: Ahmad Nivins has now scored in double figures in 71 of the 107 games of his career and in 25 consecutive games. He's grabbed double-figure rebounds 18 times, with a league-leading six double-doubles this season alone. The senior has 16 career double-doubles.
CARR SHOW: Senior Tasheed Carr has upped his scoring in the past few games. He's averaged 18.5 points in two games versus Drexel and Ball State while making 12-of-14 from the foul line. Carr scored 14 points in the first half vs. Ball State, helping the Hawks overcome an early 10-point deficit and take the lead by halftime. He finished that game with 18 points while scoring 19 in the loss to Drexel.
WELCOME TO OUR HOUSE: This season will mark the first appearance in The Palestra for most Atlantic 10 teams. The exceptions are La Salle and Temple, as Saint Joseph's plays all of its city games here in the famed building. During Phil Martelli's tenure, the Hawks have compiled a 14-6 record in league regular-season games at The Palestra.
LOSING IT: The loss to Drexel marked the third time this season that the Hawks couldn't hold on to a double-digit lead. The Hawks had an early 11-point lead in the first half against the Dragons but saw it disappear by halftime. Versus Siena, SJU held an 18-point margin with 15:05 to play and saw Siena take the lead with 4:06 remaining. At Holy Cross, SJU led by 12 points at the 10-minute mark but saw the Crusaders go on a 9-1 run to get back into the game, and eventually lost in overtime.
MISSING WHEN IT COUNTS: Although the Hawks have been solid at the foul line thus far, shooting 73.0 percent as a team, they've missed free throws when it counts. Against Villanova, Darrin Govens missed the front end of a one-and-one with the Hawks leading by one point with :17 to play. In the Siena loss, with SJU leading by a point, Tasheed Carr missed the front end at :10. As a team, the Hawks are converting 20-for-30 (66.7) from the line in the final minute of play. Ahmad Nivins, the team's top free throw shooter at 77.0 overall, is 8-for-10 (80%) in the final minute.
INSIDE FORCES: Forwards Ahmad Nivins and Idris Hilliard have given the Hawks a strong inside game as of late. In the three games prior to the Ball State game, the duo combined for 105 points and 54 rebounds while hitting 64.4 percent (38-59) from the field. Nivins had a season-high 26 points and 16 rebounds against Cornell, while Hilliard recorded his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. In the Siena game, Hilliard had a career-best 20 points with nine rebounds while Nivins chipped in 15 points.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS: Ahmad Nivins is living up to expectations this year as he leads the Hawks in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. The senior had 26 points and 16 rebounds vs. Cornell, while making 10-of-13 from the field. Since Phil Martelli's teams are mostly known for their guard play, Martelli was asked if Nivins was the best big man he has coached. Martelli agreed to an extent, saying, "To be honest, most of my big guys set screens and get the hell out of the way."
JUST WARMING UP: Phil Martelli's teams are known for their strong play as the season progresses, especially during the conference slate, so the Hawks' current 6-7 record is not cause for alarm yet. In the past four years, the Hawks have headed into January with a combined 22-19 record (53.6 winning pct.). But during the conference regular season, Saint Joseph's has compiled a 41-23 record (64.0%).
LOOKING AHEAD: The Hawks travel to St. Bonaventure on Wednesday and then begins a three-game homestand by hosting Charlotte on January 18.