Earlier in the week, St. Joseph’s head coach, Phil Martelli, stated in a press conference, “We have called every game on the schedule a big game, so this is a big game.” The Hawks are in desperation mode for a bid to the NCAA tournament. To make this elite field of 68 teams, St. Joe’s is probably going to have to win the Atlantic 10 tournament with their record (17-10, 7-5 A10). There is a slim chance for an at large bid, even if they win out, but the bottom line is: every game is a big game.
The Hawks knew this tonight against the Rhode Island Rams (5-22, 2-10 A10). And what did they do? Go out and win a game they were supposed to, 80-69 over the Rams.
This was a frustrating game to watch for a Hawk fan because St. Joe’s kept Rhode Island in the game. Poor defense and some careless play allowed Rhode Island to keep this one close throughout most of the game. Rhode Island played a tight double-team press during the game, which kept SJU on its toes. The Rams led 38-36 going into the 2nd half, but the Hawks came out in the second half with a spark. A couple of big buckets by Carl Jones, Halil Kanacevic, and a huge Aiken three put the Hawks up within 6 minutes of the half.
With 11:31 left in the game, the Hawks were up 57-46 and in cruise control. However, this lead soon diminished and it was a two-point game with about 4 minutes remaining. A Langston Galloway 3-pointer led the charge late in the second half. A few C.J. Aiken alley-oops later the Hawks found themselves with a victory.
The MVP of this Atlantic 10 contest was the Hawks’ very own Carl Jones. Battling an ankle sprain since the January 18th loss against Xavier, people were wondering when Jones would return to his usual self. Tonight was the night for Jones, scoring 28 points and accounting for 6 assists, his third game this season with 28+ points. I believe it is fair to say that Jones is back.
For the Rams it was Orion Outerbridge who delivered the star performance. Putting up 19 points, Outerbridge helped keep the Rams in this one, shooting over 50% from field goal range.
The Rams find themselves in last place in the Atlantic 10, while the Hawks find themselves fighting for a first-round bye in the conference’s tournament. On Saturday, the Hawks will be playing another away game against a poor conference foe, the George Washington Colonials. This is another vital game for the Hawks. Get a win against GW and the Hawks could see their NCAA tourney hopes live to see another day.