Dec. 27, 2006
NEW YORK - The Saint Joseph's men's basketball team returns to action after the Christmas break to participate in the Aeropostale Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 28 and 29. The Hawks (6-4) open play against Hofstra (6-4) on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
The game can be heard locally on WHAT (1340 AM) or on audio streaming at www.sjuhawks.com with Tom McCarthy and Joe Lunardi calling the action and will be televised in New York on the MSG Network.
The second game on Dec. 28 will feature St. John's against Boston University. Winners of the two games will square off on the 29th at 8:30 p.m., preceded by the consolation game at 6:30 p.m.
GAME NOTES Barring any last-minute setbacks, leading scorer Ahmad Nivins is probable for the game, after missing the Saint Mary's game with a sprained ankle. If he can't go, Alvin Mofunanya will make his second straight start. Saint Joseph's and Hofstra are meeting for the third consecutive year, although this is the first regular-season meeting. The Hawks and Pride have faced off in the NIT for the past two seasons, with SJU winning in 2005 and Hofstra earning the victory in 2006. The Hawks are making and appearance in Madison Square Garden for the fourth consecutive year, and own a 3-1 record over the past three seasons. Phil Martelli needs seven wins to surpass Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay on SJU's list for coaching victories. Ramsay totaled 234 in 11 years (234-72 from 1955 to 66) while Martelli's 12-year mark stands at 228-129.
SJU AT MSG: Madison Square Garden has been a favorite place for the Hawks and their fans, and in fact, it's the fourth consecutive year that SJU has played at least one game here. Last season, Saint Joseph's defeated Kansas in the Jimmy V Classic and in 2005, the Hawks reached the NIT Championship game. In 2003-04, the Hawks got their historic season off to a rousing start with a win over #10 Gonzaga as at least 5,000 SJU fans made the trip to New York. In the past three years, SJU is 3-1 in the Garden, while Phil Martelli owns a 4-2 record, having led the Hawks to the NIT Finals in his first season, 1995-96. With frequent participation in the Holiday Festival over the years, SJU holds an all-time record of 14-16 at MSG.
HAWKS IN THE HOLIDAY FESTIVAL: This will be the 10th time that Saint Joseph's will participate in the Holiday Festival. The Hawks have earned a runner-up finish twice, in the first appearance in 1958-59 and also in 1966-67. SJU owns a 10-14 record in the tournament. The Hawks' last appearance was in 1991-92, when they lost to Memphis and Fordham.
INJURY UPDATE: Ahmad Nivins is probable for the Hofstra game, barring any last-minute setbacks. The sophomore returned from the Hawks' three-day break for Christmas and practiced on Dec. 26. He missed the Saint Mary's game due to a sprained (right) ankle suffered on Dec. 13. Reserve walk-on Marcus Mitchell is doubtful because of a sprained ankle.
LOCAL TALENT: The Hawks have two players local to the New York metropolitan area - sophomores Ahmad Nivins and Alvin Mofunanya. Nivins is from Jersey City and played at St. Anthony's while Mofunanya is from Englewood, NJ, and attended Dwight Morrow High School.
AHMAD'S WEEK: Ahmad Nivins was named the Atlantic 10 Co-Player of the Week on Dec. 9, sharing the award with Rhode Island's Jimmy Baron. Nivins averaged 27.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in the first two games of the NABC Classic, with a career-high 28 in the win over Bellarmine. He shot 21-for-29 (.724) from the floor in the two games. The sophomore then scored eight points in the Hawks' loss to Ohio, but earned NABC Classic All-Tournament honors. In the three games, Nivins averaged 21.6 points and 8.0 rebounds.
HAWKS AND HOFSTRA: The teams have been involved in two intense games with each other in the past two seasons, which were both NIT contests. In 2005, Saint Joseph's hosted Hofstra at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse in the NIT Opening Round and captured a 53-44 win en route to reaching the NIT Finals. Last year, Hofstra ended the Hawks' season with a hard-fought 77-75 overtime win in the NIT Second Round.