Philadelphia is in the midst of its coldest stretch of weather in three years. Judging by the way the Saint Joseph’s started the game on Wednesday night, you would have thought the Hawks were playing the game outside in the frigid temperatures instead of inside the confines of Hagan Arena.
St. Bonaventure (9-9, 2-3 Atlantic 10) scored the first twelve points of the contest and led by a 35-10 margin at one point in the first half on their way to a 73-64 win over Saint Joseph’s (10-7, 1-3 A-10).
The Hawks effort during the first half was nothing short of embarrassing. Saint Joseph’s was listless on both ends of the floor, allowing the Bonnies wide open looks from three-point range. St. Bonaventure also had far too easy of a time getting to the basket, with miscommunication rampant on the defensive end for the Hawks at times leaving the paint area to look like a literal parting of the seas.
Despite St. Bonaventure having big man Youssou N’Doye in foul trouble early in the first half, the Hawks failed to expose the Bonnies weakness on the inside, instead settling for three-pointers that were not falling.
There were ominous signs for Saint Joseph’s before the ball even tipped off. Carl Jones, the Hawks senior guard, was benched to start the game after what was termed as a minor team infraction during practice on Tuesday. Papa Ndao started in place of Jones and never stepped foot on the court again after committing two turnovers and playing porous defense over the first five minutes of action.
Late in the first half, Hawks junior guard and captain Langston Galloway was accidentally poked in the eye and did not return to the game after sustaining an abrasion of the cornea of his left eye. Galloway finished with no points on 0-of-6 shooting in 18 minutes of action.
St. Bonaventure cruised to a 36-17 advantage over Saint Joseph’s at halftime, taking full advantage of the lackluster Hawks performance.
Saint Joseph’s eventually found some energy and mounted a second half charge. There seemed to be more of a concerted effort to get the ball inside with N’Doye still in foul trouble and eventually fouling out of the game.
Halil Kanacevic was a bright spot for Saint Joseph’s in his first game back after missing the prior three games while tending to the death of a family member in Montenegro. Kanacevic led the Hawks with 16 points in the game and also corralled 6 rebounds in 29 minutes of play, he provided an assist to Ronald Roberts who slammed the ball home, suddenly bringing the Hawks to within six points at 60-54 with 4:25 left.
However, the Hawks failed on an alley-oop attempt while Jones missed a wide open three-point attempt which could have cut into the lead further.
Instead it would be Demetrius Conger who made the clutch plays in the late stages, scoring seven consecutive points in one stretch to put the Bonnies out of reach. On one particular play there was a defensive breakdown which allowed Conger to waltz into the lane for a dunk, putting the Bonnies up by nine.
The final dagger was a step-back jumper by Conger late in the shot clock on an ensuing possession, giving St. Bonaventure a 67-59 lead with 46 seconds remaining. That jumper was a hill just too steep for Saint Joseph’s to climb.
Conger led the Bonnies with 21 points in the win, while Matthew Wright chipped in 18 points and Chris Johnson scored 15 points, with 13 of those points coming in the second half.
Roberts scored 14 points for Saint Joseph’s with C.J. Aiken providing 13 points and Chris Wilson netting 12 points in the losing effort.
Saint Joseph’s had a commanding 36-19 edge on the glass, however, the Hawks were often reluctant to go inside despite their obvious advantage in the paint, instead settling for three-pointers. Saint Joseph’s was an abysmal 2-for-22 from three-point range in the game, only hitting 9 percent of their shots from long distance.
On an evening where A-10 leaders Butler and Xavier both sustained conference losses, the door was open for the Hawks to make up some ground in the Atlantic 10 race. Instead, the Hawks slumped to a 1-3 record in conference play during a season where they were preseason favorites to win the conference title.
Whatever explanation is given for the Hawks awful first half effort level and overall performance will be unacceptable. St. Bonaventure will head back to the area known as the “Colden Snowbelt” with their first win on Hawk Hill since their NCAA Tournament season of 2000, when Jim Baron was manning the sidelines for the Bonnies.
Saint Joseph’s will need to muster up a much better effort on Saturday evening as they welcome the Xavier Musketeers into town for a 6 p.m. tip-off at Hagan Arena on Saturday evening.