Feb. 11, 2009
PHILADELPHIA - Saint Joseph's (14-8; 7-1 A-10) and Temple (13-9; 5-3) will meet for the first time since last year's Atlantic 10 championship game when the Hawks host their rivals on Thursday, February 12 at The Palestra. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2 beginning at 7:00 p.m.
Jon Sciambi and Hubert Davis will call the action on ESPN2. 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.
GAME NOTES: The Hawks have won nine of the last 10 games, after going a perfect 7-0 in January. Saint Joseph's and Temple met three times last year, with the Owls winning the last meeting, in the A-10 Championship game. Senior Ahmad Nivins tops the Hawks with a league-leading 15 double-doubles and is averaging a team-high 19.6 points and 11.8 rebounds. He has scored in double figures in 34 consecutive games, also the best in the Atlantic 10, while recording nine double-doubles in a row. Ahmad Nivins leads the A-10 in field goal percentage (.656) and ranks second nationally. He also tops the league in rebounding (11.8), offensive rebounds (4.3), defensive rebounds (7.5) and minutes played (39.5), while ranking among the conference's top 10 in eight categories. He leads the A-10 in scoring and rebounding in conference games only with 20.9 points and 13.6 rebounds. Saint Joseph's tops the A-10 in free throw percentage both in overall games (73.5) and conference games (75.2). Today's game does not count in the Big 5 standings, instead the March 5 game at Temple will be the City Series contest.
LAST TIME OUT: Ahmad Nivins scored 21 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to lead Saint Joseph's past Massachusetts, 68-64. Tasheed Carr added 14 points and Darrin Govens had 11 as SJU used an 11-2 run late in the second half to pull away from the Minutemen. Trailing 37-34 at halftime, SJU took its first lead of the second half, 54-53, with 4:48 remaining thanks to a Garrett Williamson layup. The game would eventually be tied at 56 and SJU took it from there to put the game away. A Nivins jumper and another by Williamson pushed the lead to four at 60-56 with 1:25 to go. Three free throws by Carr and Williamson made it 63-56 before an Anthony Gurley jumper brought UMass within five with 38 seconds left. Idris Hilliard made an easy layup, which was followed by Carr's layup pushing the lead to 67-58, SJU's largest of the game. UMass would get no closer than three the rest of the way. The Hawks shot 45.5 percent from the floor, while the Minutemen struggled to 38.1% due to the stifling Saint Joseph's defense late in the game.
DOWN TO THE WIRE: The Hawks and Owls split the regular season series in 2007-08 with two thrillers. SJU won the first one at Temple, 68-67, on Pat Calathes' 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds to play. Temple came out ahead in the second game at The Palestra, 57-56, on Mark Tyndale's layup with :21 to go. Temple won the rubber game, defeating the Hawks, 69-64 in the Atlantic 10 Championship game. The combined margin of victory in the three games last year was seven points.
SEEING DOUBLE: Ahmad Nivins has now scored in double figures in 80 of the 116 games of his career and in an A-10 leading 34 consecutive games. He's grabbed double-figure rebounds 26 times, with a league-leading 15 double-doubles this season alone, giving him 24 career double-doubles.
POST PRODUCTION: Ahmad Nivins is one of the most efficient and productive offensive players in the nation. The senior is registering 1.9 points per every shot taken.
FACE THE NATION: Ahmad Nivins ranks among the top 50 in the nation in four categories - field goal percentage (2nd); rebounding (6th); scoring (34th); and blocked shots (46th).
CARR SHOW: In the past seven games, Tasheed Carr is averaging 16.0 points and 5.4 assists, with a high of 21 points at Richmond.
BACK ON TRACK: Darrin Govens seems have regained his shooting touch, converting 9-of-17 field goals in the last two games, scoring a combined 25 points. In the four games prior to the GW contest, the junior had made just 15-of-48 from the field. Govens is averaging 13.5 points overall and 12.1 in conference games.
JUST WARMING UP: Phil Martelli's teams are known for their strong play as the season progresses, especially during the conference slate. 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 (counting this season), Saint Joseph's has compiled a 49-24 record (67.1%). This season, SJU was 5-7 at the end of December and has since won eight of nine, while going undefeated in January.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE: In conference games, Ahmad Nivins is averaging a dominating 20.9 points and 13.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 60.7 percent from the field and 82.3 percent from the foul line. After Nivins' 34-point, 16-rebound performance against Duquesne, Phil Martelli said, "Any discussion about the best player in the city... please, the precincts have closed. I'll go as far to say - he's the best player in the league."
BATTLING BACK: At UMass, Saint Joseph's held the lead for only 3 minutes and 12 seconds, but it was the right time to lead. The Hawks held a lead in the first half for only 21 seconds and then took its second lead of the game with 4:48 to play on a Garrett Williamson basket. UMass regained it but then the Hawks took the lead for good at 2:28 when Williamson hit a jumper en route to the 68-64 victory. Phil Martelli said, "All year long the players have talked to themselves about toughness and what it means on the road. I don't think this was a great basketball effort, but I think it was a great mental effort."
MAGIC NUMBER: Tasheed Carr is approaching the 1,000-point mark for his career, although he will not have scored all 1,000 at Saint Joseph's. Carr totaled 290 points in his first two years at Iowa State, and since transferring, has notched 620 here on Hawk Hill.
THE THROWBACK: Ahmad Nivins ranks 34th in the nation in scoring but more impressively, he is the only player among the nation's top 50 scorers that has not hit at least one 3-point field goal. Nivins has accumulated his points with 149 field goals and 134 free throws.
FRIENDLY FOES: Phil Martelli and Fran Dunphy are very good friends and share a passion for their work in the community. The coaches are co-chairs of the Philadelphia Coaches vs. Cancer effort, which is one of the nation's highest fundraising groups for Coaches vs. Cancer. The group, which is comprised of the city's six Division I coaches and their wives, raised over $800,000 last year and has set a goal of $1 million this year. The next event is the March Madness Tip-Off Breakfast on March 16, which will be held here at The Palestra.
LOOKING AHEAD: Saint Joseph's has a quick turnaround and plays city rival La Salle on Feb. 14. SJU will then travel to Saint Louis' new Chaifetz Center to meet the Billikens on Feb. 17 before returning home to face UMass on Feb. 22.