Dec. 30, 2008
PHILADELPHIA - Saint Joseph's (5-6) will ring in 2009 with a New Year's meeting against city rival Drexel (3-6) The Palestra. Game time is 5 p.m. for the contest which will be televised locally on CN8, The Comcast Network.
The Saint Joseph's Sports Network team of Tom McCarthy 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.
This will be the second year in a row that the Hawks and Drexel are playing on New Year's Eve. SJU won the 2007 meeting, 69-51. Saint Joseph's has yet to put together back-to-back wins this season. Senior Ahmad Nivins tops the Hawks with a league-leading six double-doubles in the first 11 games. He's averaging 19.1 points and 10.6 rebounds. He was named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Week for Dec. 28 after registering 26 pts-16 rebs in a win over Cornell. Garrett Williamson ranks second in the Atlantic 10 in assist/turnover ratio (2.23). 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 (694), offensive rebounds (4.5) and minutes played (38.0). He ranks eighth in nationally in field goal percentage and 12th in rebounding. Darrin Govens has notched double figures in all but one game. He scored 22 in the win at Towson and followed that with 18 points against Villanova.
LAST TIME OUT: Siena rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit and hit two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to defeat SJU, 75-74, at The Palestra. Saint Joseph's led 44-39 at the half, then went on a 17-4 run to lead 61-43 with 15:05 left. The Saints' pressing defense then sparked a 19-4 spurt, cutting the lead to 65-62. The Hawks moved ahead 68-64, but Siena hit back-to-back buckets to forge a 68-68 tie with 4:36 remaining. A 3-pointer with two minutes left gave Siena its first lead of the second half, 73-72, while a layup by Idris Hilliard with 12.7 to go put the Hawks back on top. Tasheed Carr then stole the ball and was fouled with 9.5 seconds left. But Carr missed the first of a one-and-one, leading to Siena's game-winning free throws. The loss ruined a career-best 20 point effort from Hilliard, while Ahmad Nivins chipped in with 15 points. The Hawks, who shot 58.5 percent in the game, committed 19 turnovers.
RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR: The Hawks and New Year's Eve have become a recent tradition. This will be Saint Joseph's sixth game on New Year's Eve in the last eight years, and its second consecutive vs. Drexel. In the program's history, the Hawks are 3-4 on the final day of the year. Here's the rundown: 2007: vs. Drexel, W 69-51 2005: at Gonzaga, L 102-94 2004: at Ohio State, L 72-61 2002: at Gonzaga, W 79-78 (OT) 2001: Gonzaga, L 83-80 1996: at Wisconsin-Green Bay, W 64-59 1961: Seton Hall at ECAC Holiday Festival (New York), L 91-83
KEY TO THE CITY: SJU owns a 29-11 record against city teams over the last six seasons (counting this year). This mark counts all games against Philadelphia teams. The Hawks lost to Villanova on Dec. 11 in the first city game of the season.
SEEING DOUBLE: Ahmad Nivins has now scored in double figures in 69 of the 105 games of his career and in 23 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.
LOSING IT: The loss to Siena marked the second time this season that the Hawks couldn't hold on to a double-digit lead. 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.
HOW'D IT HAPPEN?: If you just looked at the final boxscore from the Siena game, you might not think that the Hawks lost. Aside from playing at home, SJU had five starters in double figures, shot 58.5 percent from the field and registered 24 assists. But among the things that contributed to the loss of the 18-point lead and the game were: 19 turnovers; a 9-minute scoring drought; 11 turnovers from the backcourt; and the team's leading rebounder (Nivins) with just two boards.
MISSING WHEN IT COUNTS: Although the Hawks have been solid at the foul line thus far, shooting a league-best 72.9 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 just 15-for-23 (65.2) from the line in the final minute of play. Ahmad Nivins, the team's top free throw shooter at 78.9 overall, is 7-for-8 (87.5%) 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 past two games, the duo has combined for 85 points and 37 rebounds while hitting 69.7 percent (30-43) 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."
DOING IT ALL: Garrett Williamson just missed a triple-double at Towson when he fell two points shy. The junior had eight points, tied his career-high with 10 rebounds and notched a personal best 10 assists. The last time a Hawk registered that statistical rarity was on Feb. 19, 2005 when Dwayne Jones had 11 points-11 rebounds-10 blocks vs. St. Bonaventure.