Dec. 10, 2008
PHILADELPHIA - Saint Joseph's (4-4) will visit 15th-ranked Villanova (8-1) on Thursday, December 11, in the annual meeting of the rivals. Game time is 8 p.m. at the Pavilion.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2 with Dave O'Brien and Steve Lavin calling the action. 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 are finishing a string of four games in 11 days and will now break for final exams. SJU returns to action on December 22 with three consecutive games at The Palestra. Senior Ahmad Nivins tops the Hawks with a league-leading five double-doubles in the first eight games. He's averaging 19.1 points and 11.4 rebounds and earned A-10 Co-Player of the Week honors for the second time this season. He was also named the Big 5 Player of the Week for December 7. Garrett Williamson leads the Atlantic 10 in assist/turnover ratio (2.39). 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 (68.8), offensive rebounds (4.7) and minutes played (38.2). He ranks eighth in nationally in field goal percentage and rebounding (11.4). Darrin Govens has notched double figures in all but one game. He scored 22 in the win at Towson.
LAST TIME OUT: The combination of Ahmad Nivins from the inside and Darrin Govens from the outside powered Saint Joseph's over Towson, 85-64, at the Towson Center in the first-ever meeting between the teams. Nivins scored a game-high 25 points while Govens added 22. Nivins missed only three shots in the game, going 9-for-12 while Govens hit four 3-pointers for the Hawks. Garrett Williamson just missed a triple-double as he had eight points and career-highs of 10 rebounds and 10 assists while Tasheed Carr added 11 points and eight rebounds. Nivins had 15 points in the first half, going 4-for-5 from the field and a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line, as the Hawks held onto a 38-31 halftime lead. SJU connected on 11-of-22 field goals and held a 13-for-15 advantage from the foul line in the first 20 minutes. The Hawks broke it open immediately after intermission, going on a 14-7 run to take a 52-38 lead. SJU got its running game going, forcing five Towson turnovers and scoring eight fast-break points. SJU took its biggest lead, 89-55, with under two minutes to play, and finished the game connecting on 51.7 percent from the field.
A LOOK BACK: Saint Joseph's rolled to a 77-55 win over rival Villanova in the standing-room only Palestra on Feb. 4, 2008. The predominant Hawk crowd got the win they waited four years for, as SJU snapped a three-game losing streak against the Wildcats. The Hawks also ended Villanova's 14-game Big 5 winning streak. Saint Joseph's jumped out to a 13-4 lead and never trailed in the contest. Villanova closed to within 19-18, but the Hawks went on an 11-0 run and led by double digits the rest of the way. SJU's biggest margin in the game was 31 points with two minutes to go. The Hawks got 20 points each from Pat Calathes and Rob Ferguson, while Darrin Govens added 16 points. The Hawks shot 54.5 percent from the field in the first half and went 20-for-25 from the foul line in the game, while forcing 17 VU turnovers.
EARLY CHRISTMAS PRESENT: This game between the traditional rivals is being played in December for the first time since 2000-01. For the past seven years, the game had been played in late January/early February. It is actually the earliest date for this game since December 1, 1998, which was a 61-49 Villanova win at The Palestra. The game is also back to being televised on ESPN/ESPN2 after a one-year hiatus, as last year's meeting was broadcast by CSTV.
LOPSIDED SERIES: Fans desiring to see a close game in the SJU-Villanova series have been disappointed over the past few years. The average margin of victory in the last seven meetings is 17.1 points. Villanova has won four of those last seven, although SJU scored a 22-point victory in 2007-08. The closest game in the past seven years was on Feb. 2, 2004 when the #3 Hawks, led by Jameer Nelson, kept their unbeaten streak intact with the 74-67 win at The Pavilion. Saint Joseph's average margin of victory in the past seven years is 15.3 points while Villanova's is 16.0 points.
SEEING DOUBLE: Ahmad Nivins has now scored in double figures in 66 of the 102 games of his career. He's grabbed double-figure rebounds 18 times, with a league-leading five this season alone. The senior has 15 career double-doubles.
INSIDE-OUTSIDE: The inside-outside combination of Ahmad Nivins and Darrin Govens provided a performance at Towson that the Hawks have been waiting for. Nivins made 9-of-12 shots, and 7-of-8 from the foul line, en route to a game-high 25 points. Govens had the hot hand from the perimeter to connect on 7-of-13 and score 22 points.
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. ON HIS SHOULDERS: Phil Martelli's admitted that's he's placed a huge burden on the shoulders of Ahmad Nivins. "If he's in the conversation for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, then we have a chance to be a good team. If he's not the best player on the floor each game, then we're in trouble. Certainly our players and Ahmad understand the burden that's been placed on him, and Ahmad has willingly accepted it."
ROAD WARRIORS: The Hawks have been on the road for five of seven games thus far, with just one at the Wachovia Center and one so far at this year's homecourt, The Palestra. They are 2-1 in away games in 1-2 on neutral courts.
LOOKING AHEAD: SJU takes a break for final exams and returns with three straight games at the Palestra, beginning on December 22 against Cornell.