St. Joe’s avoided some very serious blushes and picked up their first Atlantic 10 with a strong second half to overcome Fordham’s upset attempt in Philadelphia.
It took 21 points form Darrin Govens, ’10, including five-of-seven shooting from three-point range, and a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds from Todd O’Brien, ’12, for the Hawks to escape with the win.
The Hawks (5-9, 1-1 A-10) came out of the gate strong thanks to the hot hand of Govens, who had 14 of the team’s first 22 points. His efforts had the Hawks staked to a 26-16 lead with 9:17 left in the first half.
It was an effort that St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli knew his team needed from someone.
“We need to feel good about an individual, a pattern,” Martelli said. “We have to feel good, and we don’t have enough of that in our reservoir yet.”
But the Rams (2-12, 0-2 A-10) hit the Hawks with a surge to end the half, led by 10 first-half points each from Brenton Butler and Fahro Alihodzic, and took a 43-37 lead into the break.
St. Joe’s would quickly recover, largely thanks to the efforts of O’Brien on both ends of the court, and pulled out an 8-2 run to even things quickly at 45. The two teams would trade leads back and forth in a game that produced 11 ties until the 5:31 mark when the Hawks’ two stars teamed up, with O’Brien slamming home a feed from Govens to give St. Joe’s a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Rams went cold down the stretch, shooting just 28.9 percent from the field in the second half, and the Hawks were able to win pulling away.
Carl Jones, ’13, added 15 points off the bench, including 7-9 from the free throw line, while Garrett Williamson, ’10, also cracked into double-figures with 10. He and Govens each had five assists for the Hawks, who had 19 assists against just 10 turnovers while causing the Rams to cough the ball up 20 times.
Alihodzic finished with a career high 16 points to go along with eight rebounds. Butler tallied 13 points, albeit on 4-20 shooting, while Lance Brown chipped in 11.
Defense was the story for the Hawks, who also managed to keep the Rams off the free throw line in the second half. They swiped nine steals, including four by Govens, despite being outrebounded 46-30. But for Martelli, it was the defensive stand to open the second stanza that turned the tide in the game.
“The first possession of the half was a big stop, and Darrin hit that three, and again, to me, this is about feeling better, and getting better,” said Martelli. “There’s a lot of this game that’s psychological.”
With their first A-10 win under their belt, the Hawks hit the road for a pair of tough tests, squaring off against Rhode Island on Jan. 13 and St. Bonaventure on Jan. 16.
-Matthew De George ’10