March 15, 2008
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Saint Joseph's will play for its first Atlantic 10 title since 1997 tonight when it takes on city rival Temple in the conference championship game. Tip-off is 6 p.m. from Boardwalk Hall, with the contest televised nationally on ESPN. The winner earns the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The game can also be heard on WNTP (990 AM) with Ken Krsolovic and Joe Lunardi calling the action. Streaming audio is available free of charge on www.sjuhawks.com.
GAME NOTES: This is SJU's fifth appearance in the championship game and the third in four years. The Hawks were in the 2006 title game, losing to Xavier. This is the first time that SJU and Temple have met in the Atlantic 10 title game, but it's not the first conference championship game played between the two schools, as both were members of the Middle Atlantic Conference and then the East Coast Conference (full history on pg. 3). The Hawks were also the fifth seed the last time that SJU advanced to the A-10 final in 2006. Rob Ferguson now owns the SJU school record for games played with 133. Pat Calathes tops the Hawks in scoring (17.9 ppg) and rebounding (7.6) and is second assists (2.7). This is the sixth time the Hawks have won at least 20 games under Phil Martelli and the first time it's happened since 2004-05 (24-12). Saint Joseph's and Temple have split the series this year, with each team winning by a one-point margin.
LAST TIME OUT: For the second time in eight days, Saint Joseph's upset nationally-ranked Xavier, using a stellar defensive effort to earn the 61-53 win in the A-10 semfinal. Pat Calathes led the way with 24 points and a career-best five 3-pointers, while Ahmad Nivins had 15 points. Nivins set the pace early, scoring nine of the Hawks' first 11 points. SJU scored 15 consecutive points from the end of the first half into the early part of the second en route to its biggest lead of the game. The Hawks limited Xavier to 37 percent shooting, which included just one basket outside the paint and 1-for-14 shooting from 3- point range. The Musketeers closed to 54-49 with 1:15 to play, but Calathes took an inbounds pass the length of the court for a dunk to seal the win. Rob Ferguson added 11 points, while Calathes had a team-high eight rebounds.
FINAL GOAL: The Hawks are making their fifth appearance in the A-10 conference final and the first since 2006. Saint Joseph's lost in the 2006 championship game to Xavier and dropped the 2005 final to GW. SJU's last title came in 1997, when it defeated Rhode Island at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. The Hawks are 2-2 in the league championship, having also won the title in 1986.
FOUR TO SCORE: The last team to win four games in the A-10 Tournament was Xavier in 2006, when it defeated Saint Joseph's in the final game.
RUBBER GAME: The Hawks and Owls split the season series this year 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, 57-56, on Mark Tyndale's layup with :21 to go.
STORIED HISTORY: This is the first time that Saint Joseph's and Temple have met for the Atlantic 10 title. But it's not the first time that the two schools have met for a conference championship. The two schools were members of the Middle Atlantic Conference and then the East Coast Conference before joining the Atlantic 10. Here's the rundown of the Hawks-Owls championship series (title games only): 1969 MAC: SJU 68- TU 67 (Palestra) 1970 MAC: TU 63- SJU 59 (Palestra) 1972 MAC: TU 65- SJU 57 (Palestra) 1973 MAC: SJU 70- TU 60 (Palestra) 1979 ECC: TU 61- SJU 60 (Palestra)
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 a 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.
TITLE TALES: SJU's last A-10 title came in 1997 as the top-seeded (East Division) Hawks defated St. Bonaventure, George Washington and Rhode Island to win the tournament at the Spectrum. Rashid Bey was named the Most Outstanding Player. In the 1986 tournament, top-seeded Saint Joseph's defeated Penn State, Duquesne and West Virginia to win the title, while Greg Mullee was named the MOP.