Going into halftime on Wednesday evening, most Saint Joseph’s Hawks fans were likely feeling good about their team’s performance. The Hawks were only trailing by two against one of the hottest teams in the nation.
The second half was a completely different story.
Saint Louis (22-5, 11-2 Atlantic 10) seized control during the second half as they rolled to their 10th straight win, knocking off Saint Joseph’s (15-11, 6-7 A-10) 70-53 at Chaifetz Arena in front of 10,012 spectators.
After Saint Joseph’s closed the first half on a 10-2 run, Saint Louis opened up the second half by outscoring the Hawks 21-5 to put the upstart Hawks out of reach.
Of particular concern for the Hawks was how easy Saint Louis made it look. The Billikens were consistently able to muscle their way inside for lay-ups, as C.J. Aiken and Halil Kanacevic in particular struggled with interior defense in the second half.
During the same stretch the Hawks could not cope with the stifling defense that Saint Louis has become nationally recognized for. Saint Joseph’s did not get the necessary scoring from their backcourt in this game. After showing tremendous energy against George Washington, Carl Jones was ineffective and sluggish throughout the contest as he finished with just two points on the evening.
Saint Joseph’s guard trio of Jones, Langston Galloway and Chris Wilson combined for just 15 points on 3-of-21 shooting from the field. Wilson only played 10 minutes, a season low, as he lost his spot in the starting lineup to Kanacevic. The Hawks guards set the precedent for the entire team as Saint Joseph’s only shot 33 percent from the field for the game.
The lone bright spot for the Hawks was the play of Ronald Roberts. The junior forward continued his inspired play as he netted nearly half of Saint Joseph’s points, scoring 25 on the evening as his motor continued to run right up until he was substituted out of the game in the final seconds.
Dwayne Evans led the charge for Saint Louis, as he notched a double-double, scoring 21 points while corralling 12 rebounds while also blocking three shots and ending up with three steals to seal an excellent all-around performance.
This match-up between the teams predicted by the media and coaches of the Atlantic 10 to be the top-two finishing teams in the conference illustrated the different directions the respective teams seem to be heading in.
Saint Louis is continuing to excel under Jim Crews, who was named the interim coach this summer after it was revealed the now late Rick Majerus would not be returning to the program. The Billikens had high expectations placed upon them by their fan base and they are meeting those expectations with their recent outstanding performances.
On the other hand, Saint Joseph’s has failed to meet the expectations even their most modest fans had for them. Other than Roberts, who continues to show growth with every performance this season, the upperclassmen on this team have not improved from last season.
The Hawks go into the final three games of the conference slate with no realistic chance of finishing higher than seventh in the Atlantic 10 during the regular season. The final three games look like games this Saint Joseph’s team should win as they face Fordham, Rhode Island and Charlotte, with all three teams sporting records that are sub-.500 in conference play.
Saint Joseph’s only sits one game ahead of 13th place Dayton in the Atlantic 10 with three games to play. The Hawks cannot afford to slip up in their final three games, or they will risk missing the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
The Hawks start their stretch run on Saturday evening as they tip-off against Fordham at 7 p.m. at Hagan Arena.