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Hawks Take on #4 Villanova for Big 5 Title
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  02/06/2006

Feb. 6, 2006

PHILADELPHIA - Saint Joseph's and fourth-ranked Villanova will play for the Big 5 title on Tuesday at the Palestra, in a game which will also mark the inaugural City Series game which was held 50 years ago. The contest, which begins at 7:30 p.m., will be televised nationally on ESPN2 as part of the network's "Rivalry Week".

It marks the fourth time in the 50-year history of the Big 5 that two 3-0 teams will be meeting for the title. Saint Joseph's has been involved in all four of those games, while SJU and Villanova have met twice. The last time 3-0 teams met was in 1988 when Temple defeated the Hawks. In 1956, Saint Joseph's defeated Temple and in 1980, Saint Joseph's defeated Villanova.

The first-ever Big 5 game, which pitted the two schools on December 14, 1995, will be be celebrated in this 50th anniversary of the Big 5. The Hawks won that game, 83-70, on December 14, 1955, before a crowd of 2,636 here at the Palestra. To mark the occasion, a few players from both schools who participated in that game will be honored prior to the tip-off. This game will also be considered a neutral contest, with both schools splitting the tickets. SJU will wear the home white uniforms and be designated as the home team on the scoreboard, just as it was in that inaugural Big 5 game 50 years ago.

The game will also be broadcast on the Saint Joseph's Sports Network on SportsTalk 950 AM with Tom McCarthy and Joe Lunardi calling the action.

Click here for streaming audio and live stats.

SAINT JOSEPH'S NOTES:

FERG'S FINEST: Rob Ferguson set a new career-high with 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting against St. Bonaventure. It was his second 20-plus point outing of the year, surpassing his previous personal best of 20 points set at Saint Mary's. Phil Martelli cites the game-winning tip-in vs. Temple (Jan. 8) as a huge boost of confidence for Ferguson, helping the sophomore string together a seven-game stretch in which he's averaged 12.5 ppg. "The tip-in against Temple took some of the monsters off his shoulders. He's been playing freer and easier. He's gotten better in practice and therefore he's playing better basketball. He knows that I expect him to be a double-figure scorer," said Martelli.

DAVE'S DIAGNOSIS: Dave Mallon is questionable for the game after suffering a grade-2 sprain of his left ankle at Dayton, which kept him out of the St. Bonaventure game. Mallon went down with 11:30 to play in the first half and was sidelined for the rest of the game. The Hawks missed the senior whom Phil Martelli has called, "the anchor of the defense" and "our best communicator on defense".

CITY CROWN: Tonight's game is for the Big 5 championship and marks just the fourth time in the 50 years of the City Series that two teams have met with 3-0 records. Saint Joseph's has been involved in all four of those games, while SJU and Villanova have met twice. • 1955-56 - Saint Joseph's defeated Temple, 77-68 • 1979-80 - Saint Joseph's defeated Villanova, 60-59 • 1987-88 - Temple defeated Saint Joseph's, 75-62

CELEBRATING THE PAST: With the 50th anniversary of the Big 5 being celebrated this year, tonight's game will take even greater significance, as Saint Joseph's and Villanova played the first-ever City Series game. The Hawks won that game, 83-70, on December 14, 1955, before a crowd of 2,636 here at the Palestra. To mark the occasion, a few players from both schools who participated in that game will be honored prior to the tip-off. This game will also be considered a neutral contest, with both schools splitting the tickets. SJU will wear the home white uniforms and be designated as the home team on the scoreboard, just as it was in that inaugural Big 5 game 50 years ago.

CITY RIVALRY: Saint Joseph's is 3-0 in the Big 5, in the 50th anniversary of the most traditional and unique arrangements in college basketball. SJU, which won the City Series crown outright in both 2004 and 2003, went 2-2 in `04-05. SJU has won a total of 19 Big 5 titles (9 outright/10 shared), which is second all-time to Temple's 22 titles (5 outright/17 shared). SJU has won the most outright titles of any school, and owns the distinction of capturing the first in 1956, when the Hawks were guided by legendary coach Jack Ramsay.

KEY TO THE CITY: SJU owns a 19-3 record against city teams over the last four seasons (counting this year). This mark counts all games against Philadelphia teams (Drexel included). The Hawks went 3-3 last season and are 4-0 in 2005-06 with wins over Drexel, Temple, La Salle and Penn.

PALESTRA PLAY: With the formation of the Philadelphia Big 5 in 1955, SJU began utilizing The Palestra as a home venue. Since that year, the Hawks have played at least one home game in the historic arena every season. SJU has compiled a 313-147 record (.680) at The Palestra, with more wins than the program's victory total at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse (302-74). The Hawks are playing at the famed building six times this season, with three of them as home games. SJU is 4-1 with wins over Drexel, Temple, La Salle and Penn, and a loss to Ohio State.

ROUGH ROAD AHEAD: This week the Hawks have back-to-back games against ranked teams (Villanova, GW) in the regular season for the first time since 1995-96, when they faced UMass (#2) and GW (#24). SJU also met two consecutive ranked teams more recently, but it was in the NCAA Tournament during the run to the 2004 Elite Eight - Wake Forest (#17) and Oklahoma State (#4).

HAWKS VS. THE TOP 25: Villanova is the third ranked team faced by the Hawks this season, after they fell to #17 George Washington on Jan. 14 and #8 Gonzaga on Dec. 31. Last year, SJU went 0-2 vs. the Top 25 with losses to Kansas and Villanova. The last ranked team beaten by Saint Joseph's was #17 Wake Forest in the NCAA East Regional Semifinals during the Hawks' run to the 2004 Elite Eight. Temple is the highest ranked team defeated by SJU under Phil Martelli, when the Hawks scored a 62-59 win over the #5 Owls on Feb. 29, 2000.

FAMILIAR FACE: Phil Martelli spent part of the summer with Villanova's Allan Ray when the Hawk coach guided the USA Basketball U-21 World Championship team. The squad competed at the FIBA U-21 World Championships in Argentina in July, where it earned a fifth-place finish. It was Martelli's third stint with a USA Basketball team, and his first as the head coach.

ADDING ALVIN: Alvin Mofunanya earned the first start of his career, replacing the injured Dave Mallon against St. Bonaventure. The freshman responded with a career-best effort, scoring 13 points in a season-high 21 minutes of action. He had 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting and had 4 rebounds. Mofunanya's previous highs were 2 points, 2 rebounds and 9 minutes. On giving the freshman the start, coach Phil Martelli commented, "He's practiced well. He's a real good talker and he's a little better with the ball than even I would give him credit for. Around the basket he's still a work in progress. But 13 points in your first start - that's significant. And I loved his foul-shooting stroke. He's gotten better in practice and deserved a look."

A.J. FOR M.I.P.: Abdulai Jalloh has made his case as one of the top candidates for the Atlantic 10's Chris Daniels Most Improved Player Award. He's gone from a reserve player averaging 4.3 ppg last season, to a starter scoring a team-best 15.5 ppg. Jalloh has scored in double figures 14 times, and had the highest output for the Hawks this season with 30 points vs. Ohio State.