March 11, 2006
CINCINNATI, OH - Saint Joseph's will look to continue its remarkable late-season run with a conference title as it takes on Xavier in the Atlantic 10 championship game tonight at 6 p.m. at U.S. Bank Arena. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN. The winner earns the A-10's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Fifth-seeded SJU (18-12) has won eight games in a row, while 10th-seeded Xavier (20-10) has a three-game streak to its credit. The Hawks defeated the Musketeers, 68-58, 11 days ago.
The game will also be broadcast on the Saint Joseph's Sports Network via SportsTalk 950 (WPEN-AM) with Phil Denne and Joe Lunardi calling the action.
This marks the second consecutive appearance in the title game for the Hawks. "We've been here, done this," said SJU coach Phil Martelli. "It's time to break through and win the championship."
Click here for game notes, streaming audio and live stats.
SAINT JOSEPH'S NOTES:
SJU is making its second consecutive appearance in the A-10 title game and the fourth in school history. The Hawks won the championship in 1997 and 1986, and lost to GW last year.
SJU's eight-game winning streak is the longest of the season and the longest since the 2003-04 regular season, when the Hawks went 27-0. Last year's team put together a five-game streak during the NIT, winning five games to reach the NIT Finals.
If the Hawks win the berth to the NCAA Tournament, it will be the sixth consecutive post-season bid and the eight in Phil Martelli's 11 years. SJU last went to the NCAA tourney in 2004, making the run to the Elite Eight. Under Martelli, the Hawks have gone to the "Big Dance" four times, including an appearance in the Sweet 16 after they won the A-10 title in 1997.
HAWKS IN THE TITLE GAME: SJU's first A-10 title came in 1986 with a 72-64 win over West Virginia and the second came in 1997 with a 61-56 victory over Rhode Island. The Hawks lost last year's championship to George Washington, 76-67.
INJURY REPORT: The Hawks suffered a key injury in the Saint Louis game when freshman Ahmad Nivins went down with a sprained ankle (left). He did not play against Temple and remains doubtful for today. The injury has been diagnosed as a grade-2 sprain.
SENIOR MOMENTS: Phil Martelli has credited the seniors for the Hawks' late-season push and they've certainly carried the team. Chet Stachitas had a game-high 17 points while grabbing a career-high nine rebounds in the win over Saint Louis, and keyed the 3-point attack vs. Temple, going 5-for-8 from the arc for 18 points. Dwayne Lee had 14 points and seven assists against Temple, while going a career-best 11-for-12 from the foul line. Dave Mallon continues to be the defensive anchor down low and grabbed eight rebounds vs. Temple.
MAKING IT HAPPEN: Although Phil Martelli gives alot of credit to the SJU seniors for this late-season run, the coach has again proven that he's one of the best in the business. The Hawks were lingering in 11th place in the Atlantic 10 after the Feb. 14 loss to Temple, and owned a 10-12 overall record, but put together a five-game streak to end the regular season, and ascended to fifth place. It's similar to last season when Martelli worked his magic and earned A-10 Coach of the Year honors for the second straight season. The Hawks started out 3-6 on the year, and then went 21-6 from January on to post a 24-12 record, and reach the championship games of both the Atlantic 10 Tournament and NIT.
MARTELLI AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP: There's one common thread in the two Atlantic 10 titles won by Saint Joseph's (1986 and 1997), and it's that Phil Martelli was part of both of them. Martelli was an assistant coach under the late Jim Boyle during the 1986 title run and then after taking over as head coach in 1995-96, led Saint Joseph's to its second crown in 1997.
FOR THREE: The long-range shooting has again become a key weapon for the Hawks as they're hitting 45 percent of their 3-pointers during the eight-game winning streak. SJU already has 28 3-pointers in this tournament, which is the third most in conference history. The Hawks have made 45.2 percent (28-for-62) in the three games.