March 12, 2005
CINCINNATI, OH - Saint Joseph's will seek the third conference title in its history when it faces George Washington in the Atlantic 10 Championship tonight at 6 p.m. at US Bank Arena, with the NCAA automatic bid on the line. The top-seeded Hawks are looking for the first title since 1997. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
ABOUT THE HAWKS: Top-seeded Saint Joseph's is making its first appearance in the championship game since 1997. The 19-10 Hawks have won eight of the last nine games and four in a row. SJU has won two A-10 crowns in its history - 1997 and 1986 - in its only two trips to the final.
ABOUT THE COLONIALS: West Division winner GW is 21-7 reaching the final with wins over Fordham and Temple.
RADIO/TV: Bob Carpenter and Mike Jarvis will call the action on ESPN, while Phil Denne and Joe Lunardi provide the broadcast on the Saint Joseph's Sports Network on WPEN-Radio (950 AM)
SJU has been to the A-10 championship game twice in its history and the Hawks won both. Top-seeded SJU captured the title in 1997, in Phil Martelli's second year as head coach, defeating Rhode Island 61-56. In 1986, the top-seeded Hawks won that championship with a 72-64 win over West Virginia, as Martelli was an assistant coach under Jim Boyle.
With a win and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Hawks would make their third consecutive trip to the NCAA's. The last time an SJU team went to the NCAA Tournament three years in a row was over 40 years ago - 1960 to 1962. Saint Joseph's has been to the NCAA Tournament 18 times in its history and four times under Phil Martelli. Last year's squad earned a top seed and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight.
Phil Martelli and the Hawks have achieved a remarkable turnaround from the early part of the season. SJU started out 3-6, but since the New Year, the Hawks have gone 16-4, including an eight-game Atlantic 10 winning streak. Last season's National Coach of the Year, Martelli was named the A-10 Coach of the Year for the second year in a row and the fourth time in his career.
Saint Joseph's and George Washington met just 10 days ago in D.C., with Hawks scoring a convincing 71-56 win. The SJU defense shut down the high-scoring Colonials, holding them to their lowest point total of the season. The Hawks staked a 20-9 lead by shooting 70 percent from the field and owned a 33-26 halftime lead. Pat Carroll scored 21 points and Dwayne Lee had a then-career-high 15 points. SJU got solid performances from its freshmen, Abdulai Jalloh (9 pts, 4 steals) and Rob Ferguson (10 pts, 5 rebs).
Saint Joseph's has won five of the last six meetings with George Washington. The teams have previously met four times in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, with the series tied at 2-2. The Hawks last played the Colonials in the 1997 Semifinals, with the Hawks scoring a 78-70 win en route to the conference championship.
A-10 Co-Player of the Year Pat Carroll put the Hawks on his back and carried them to the semifinal win over Xavier, scoring a career-high 30 points. The senior made his first five shots from the field and had 17 of the Hawks' first 32 points. Even more remarkable is the fact that Carroll did not score his first points until 13:28 of the first half. He finished the game shooting 9-for-15 from the field and 7-for-11 from 3-point range, bouncing back from a subpar (5-19) shooting effort in the quarterfinals vs. Richmond.
With all of the success Saint Joseph's had with Jameer Nelson during his career, Nelson and classmate Tyrone Barley never made it to the conference championship game. Nelson and Barley finished their careers as the winningest four-year class in Hawk history, with a 98-28 record and four straight postseason appearances. Pat Carroll and John Bryant will leave a strong legacy as well, compiling a 91-31 career mark.
Although he scored a career-high 16 points against Xavier, point guard Dwayne Lee had his highest number of turnovers since January 5 (7 vs. Fordham). Since the New Year, Lee had been averaging an impressive 6.1 assists to just 1.8 turnovers per game. In the win over Xavier, Lee did make up for it by handing out seven assists, going a career-best 9-for-11 from the foul line and grabbing a personal best four steals. Lee, who averages a team-high 35.8 minutes per game, is averaging 5.4 assists and 2.4 turnovers on the season.
The 68 points given up to Xavier was the most allowed by the Hawks since the December 28 loss to Patriot League champion Bucknell (69). The Hawks boast one of the nation's best defenses (ranked 10th), limiting their foes to 59.0 points per game. In the quarterfinals, Saint Joseph's held Richmond to 51 points, marking the seventh time in the last eight contests that the opponent has scored in the 50-59 point range.