10:00- The Billikens have been anything but a good luck charm for St. Joe’s, who dropped their fourth straight game against St. Louis, 56-52.
St. Louis held the Hawks to just 20 points in the second half and under 30 percent shooting to seal the win at the Hagan Arena.
“We’re the youngest team in America, so the kids did a great job with that,” said St. Louis head coach Rick Majerus, who’s team has been in Philadelphia since last Thursday, and may not leave town until at least Friday due to the inclement weather. “We did a lot better the second half and really manned up. I thought our defense was good.”
Cody Ellis led the Bills with 13 points, including three three-pointers. Christian Salecich had 11 points, nine of which came in the first half, while Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed chipped in nine and seven, respectively. It’s the Billikens’ second straight win in Philadelphia after they took care of business at La Salle over the weekend.
Garrett Williamson led the way for St. Joe’s with 12 points. Todd O’Brien recorded his second career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds despite foul trouble throughout, and Idris Hilliard was also in double-figures with 10, all in the first half. Darrin Govens added eight points and four assists on an atrocious 3-13 shooting and 1-5 from three.
The St. Joe’s offense faltered for much of the game, including four missed lay-ups in the first that could have added to their halftime cushion, and couldn’t respond to St. Louis’ best punch.
“It sounds simplistic, but the Achilles heel would be when our defense goes away from us,” said Martelli. “We’re just not as sharp. We were razor sharp in the first half. The plan was the right plan. We just blinked on a lot of possessions in the second half, offensively and defensively.”
The Hawks led from the get-go thanks to a three-pointer by Govens just 29 seconds in and held that lead the entire first half. They stretched the margin as high as 12, thanks in large part to eight straight points from O’Brien, at 30-18 with 3:34 left before the break But the Billikens finished the half on an 8-2 spurt to close the gap to just six.
St. Louis (15-8, 6-3 A-10) amped up the defense from that point forward, holding St. Joe’s to just 22 points and nine field goals in the games final 23:34. A three by Kyle Cassity gave the Billikens their first lead 5:35 into the half, and while the Hawks briefly stayed in contact, the Billikens were able to hold on for the win.
“Too many empty possessions on offense,” Williamson said. “We had bad possessions on offense, and they came down and scored and started chipping away. 56 points, that’s pretty good d, it’s just our offense had too many empty possessions in the second half.”
The Hawks’ (9-15, 3-7 A-10) offense was colder than the snow falling around the Hagan Arena in the second half, able to muster just 8-27 (29.9 percent) from the field, 0-6 from three-point range, and a measly 4-9 from the free throw line. That, combined with nine second-half turnovers, spelled disaster for St. Joe’s.
“It was like we lost our mojo there right away in the second half,” Martelli said. “And they’re all passing and catching. You can’t drop a ball at this level. You can’t hit a guy in the feet when he’s wide open at this level.”
Hilliard went 0-4 from the field after halftime, and foul trouble sent the hot hand of O’Brien to the bench for extended spell in both halves.
“We just got into a rhythm on offense, but it’s just frustrating because I went and got myself in foul trouble and had to sit and watch when we could have been stretching our lead,” said O’Brien. “I did the same thing in the second half. I went out with foul trouble, and it just makes you feel accountable. I really think we should have won that game.”
One solace the Hawks can take is their job defensively, especially on one of the top scorers in the A-10 in Mitchell. They were the first opponent in 17 games to hold him under 10 points, a point that was not lost on Majerus.
“[Garrett] is a great defender,” he said. “To me, he’s the best I’ve seen in the league so far.”
“Defensively, it was a team effort against Mitchell,” said Martelli, whose team was coming off what he felt was their best practice of the year on Monday. “Every time he used the ball screen, we blitzed him and double-teamed him. We fell asleep a couple times on Ellis, who’s a nice player for a young kid, and we did a good job on Willie Reed. You come in and say Mitchell, Reed and Ellis are their go-to’s, and they come out with 29 points. It wasn’t the defensive end. I wouldn’t second-guess anything defensively. But we got in our own way offensively.”
The Hawks finished shooting 37.3 percent from the field (22-59), under 17 percent from deep (2-12), and a woeful 6-11 (54.5 percent) from the charity stripe. They managed to swipe 10 steals, but turned the ball over 14 times themselves against just 10 assists.
They won the rebounding battle comfortably, one of their main bugaboos this year, by a 41-30 margin. It’s only the second time they have done that this year (DePaul), and they are 0-2 in those games.
The Hawks finish their crucial three-game homestand just 1-2. Their punishment is a two-game road trip to Massachusetts and Xavier.
8:54- Cassity astutely finds Jordan, and it takes the Hawks a second to get to him before Crosgile hacks him with 1.6 left. He misses both, but it doesn’t matter as the Billikens escape the Hagan Arena with a 56-52 win. Full recap and reaction in a few minutes…
8:52- But Ellis misses both with 9.7 left, and Williamson drives to the hole to keep things interesting with 3.6 seconds to play and the Hawks down 56-52. Majerus calls his final timeout.
8:51- Williamson misses a three, but Crosgile recovers and earns a trip to the line courtesy of Reed with 11.6 seconds left. He misses both, and Hilliard clamps down on Ellis to seal the win…
8:50- Salecich makes both to put the Bills up five, and Jones gets trapped in the corner and has to fling up a wild runner that hits glass and nothing else, and is siezed by Reed. He makes one of two from the line to push the advantage to six.
8:47- Bentley sends Salecich to the line, he’s their second-leading free throw shooter, and tops among the regulars, at 76.6 percent this year. Majerus takes a timeout to discuss things prior to the shots with 33.4 ticks left to play.
8:44- After trading missed baskets, O’Brien picks up an offensive board and drops it in to cut the lead to three, 53-50, with 34.7 seconds left. He’s got a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds so far. St. Joe’s uses its last timeout.
In case you were wondering, St. Louis is 13th in the A-10 in free throw percentage, averaging a poor 61.3 percent.
On the game reset, both teams are in the bonus. St. Louis has the game’s only two remaining timeouts and the possession arrow.
8:43-Reed misses a jumper from the elbow, and Martelli calls a timeout with 1:42 left.
If you’re looking for late-game heroes, look no further than Mitchell, as he has had the hot hand lately for St. Louis. His two free throws sealed the win against La Salle on Saturday, and he hit the game winning-jumper with 1.4 ticks left against St. Bonaventure. The diminutive guard from Milwaukee has scored in double figures in each of the team’s last 16 games.
8:40- Conklin finds Mitchell wide open from three on a kick-out, but he fires long. Not to be outdone, Govens tosses up an erratic 28-footer that may have been the last straw between him and the handful of boisterous fans sitting behind me. It’s Majerus’ turn to call timeout, his third, with the 1:59 left and the margin still at five.
8:39- Cassity coolly sinks a running 14-footer to extend the lead back to seven, but Williamson answers with an 18-footer of his own. Martelli calls the Hawks third timeout to talk strategy and get Charoy Bentley in the game on defense, with the Hawks down 53-48 and 3:07 left to play,
8:36- Salecich misses a chance at an absolute dagger from three, and fouls Govens, who makes one of two, to cut the lead to seven. The Hawks force a turnover the next time down, and after trying their damndest to turn it over, O’Brien (remember him from the first half?) puts back Crosgile’s missed put back of Hilliard’s missed jumper to cut the lead to five.
8:34- Mitchell takes it to the hoop on a circle cut and lays the ball in. He misses the free-throw after, but he still has his team up eight. Mitchell has nine tonight.
8:32- Reed stands in the way of Williamson to draw his third charge of the game. It’s Williamson’s second and the team’s seventh.
8:30- Carl Jones misses a three on the other end. He makes up for it by hitting a lay-in to respond to one by Ellis, but Ellis comes back with a three to put the Billikens in front by six, their largest margin of the game. It stays that way into the media timeout with 7:12 remaining, St. Louis up 49-43. Ellis has 13 to lead all scorers, 10 of which have come in the second half.
8:28- Baptiste cleans up the boards for a put-back, to cut the lead to two; it’s the Hawks’ first bucket in four minutes.
8:26- Ellis bails the Hawks out with a foul late in the shot clock, but Williamson misses the front end of a one-and-one. He atones at the other end by what I can only describe as poking Mitchell until he travels.
8:23- Mitchell seems unaffected, as he strips Prescott for a fast break lay-in. O’Brien compounds things by picking foul number four by stumbling into Conklin after he turns the ball over, leading to a Justin Jordan’s second three of the game. Martelli calls timeout to talk things over with his team down 43-39 and 10:39 left in the game.
8:20- Keep in mind down the stretch that it’s been a very long trip for the Billikens, who have been in Philadelphia since last Thursday night ahead of the La Salle game. There’s a possibility they might not get out for a while after tonight either with the snow that’s due to come in from the Midwest. They might be thinking more about trying to avoid a second Philly blizzard than trying to avoid the Hawks tonight…
8:18- Reed now has three after undercutting Williamson, who comes up with the steal. Reed is slower to get up though after getting hit in the face in the scrum. It’s the sixth foul on the Billikens already. The Hawks will have the ball, up 39-38, on the other side of the media timeout with 11:47 to play.
8:15- O’Brien is back in the game, and quickly draws Reed’s second foul. But Govens throws an errant pass Hilliard’s way to surrender the advantage.
8:14- Reed has been more active so far this half, taking two charges, registering a block, and now fouling Williamson. He hits both, and the Hawks are back up, 39-38, with 13:30 left.
8:13- A three by Cassity gives the Billiken’s their first lead of the game. They’ve outscored St. Joe’s 12-5 to start the half.
8:12- Brian Conklin hits two free throws, and just like that, we’re tied. But Williamson answers with an 18-footer in transition to regain a two-point edge.
8:09- Just a quick note on the halftime festivities: once again, the randomly selected St. Joe’s student failed to make a halfcourt shot for a semester of free books. But, like several other participants in the last month or so, it was a senior shooting. A senior who doesn’t need books or have a next semester at St. Joe’s. Coincidence? I think not.
8:08- Uh-oh. Ellis is getting hot after a quiet first stanza. He has five points in the half already, including a three the last time down. He can shoot the lights out, and his six threes at GW were the most for a freshman since Larry Hughes 12 years ago. The native of Perth, Australia has played well despite missing the first 14 games of season waiting for clearance from the NCAA. The Hawks are still up, but only by two, 35-33, with 15:51 left.
8:05- Dare I say it, but Williamson has done a good job of quelling Mitchell’s drives to the hoop so far tonight. A lot of the credit has to go to the height advantage, but also to Williamson’s quick feet in keeping good positioning.
8:02- Both teams use their starters to open the second half, and O’Brien picks up his third foul after just 16 seconds on the offensive end. He stays in though to watch Govens sink a jumper and Williamson hit one of two from the line to stretch the advantage to 9, 35-26.
8:00- A little food for thought ahead of the second half tip: The Billikens are 2-7 when trailing at halftime this season. The largest lead they have overcome was a 11-point deficit, the last time out against La Salle. The Hawks’ largest lead has been 12.
7:57- As Joe Lunardi to my right would have me remind you, tonight’s game between Jesuit institutions is being played in the Jesuit Basketball Spotlight. Both teams are undefeated against fellow Jesuit schools this year, with the Hawks standing at 3-0, and the Billikens at 5-0. Fairfield leads the JBS with an 8-0 record this season. For more on the Jesuit Basketball spotlight, check out next week’s edition of The Hawk for a behind-the-scenes look.
7:55- The Hawks managed to keep the offensive attack pretty stable through the first 20 minutes, shooting almost 44 percent from the field (14-32) and 33 percent from three-point land (2-6), both well above the averages the Billikens have allowed this season. Idris Hilliard leads all scorers with 10 points. Todd O’Brien has eight points and five boards, while Darrin Gvoens has five points and four assists (and no turnovers!!) Carl Baptiste is in the midst of his second straight strong performance, with four rebounds in eight minutes of quality relief.
St. Louis is only shooting 39 percent from the field (11-28), and have already attempted 12 threes. Coming into the game, three-point attempts only accounted for about 34 percent of their shots taken; tonight, that number is hovering over 42. The also have seven turnovers, are getting beaten on the boards 21-14, and are even in blocks with the Hawks with three apiece. Christian Salecich has kept them close, with nine points. Kwamain Mitchell has just five points on 2-5 shooting, and two turnovers to go with just one assist. Willie Reed has four points and six rebounds, but is 0-3 from the line, the only Billiken to make it to the charity stripe tonight.
7:45- The Hawks again run into a roadblock with under five to go on the shot clock, but they’re bailed out by a Cassity foul, leading to a lay-in by Prescott over a couple defenders. The Hawks stand tough on defense in the half’s final possession, with Cassity misfiring on a three as time expires. At the half, it’s St. Joe’s 32, St. Louis 26.
7:43- Not much in the way of fan support here today for the Hawks, as there may be 1,300 people in attendance. Section 108 right behind the basket is pretty tight with students, but there’s next to nobody in the 200 level student section. It’s getting so quite, they’re playing “Don’t Stop Believing” already, probably because we don’t have enough spoons to put in front of people’s noses to make sure they’re still breathing.
7:41- It’s magical sometimes: Prescott just gets this look in his eye, and you know a turnover is coming. He fumbles the ball out of bounds to send the game to a late media timeout with 1:43 left. The Hawks are up 30-24, SLU ball.
7:39- The Billikens respond to the tongue-lashing instantly, with back-to-back threes from Justin Jordan and Mitchell. Now Martelli wants to talk things over with the lead down to six, 30-2, and 2:41 left in the half.
7:37- Four straight productive possessions for the Hawks have them up 12, 30-18, with 3:34 left and Majerus taking his second timeout. Williamson hit two from the line, Hilliard hit a jumper, his fifth field goal already, followed by a three from Crosgile and a lay-in off glass from Williamson. It’s their biggest lead of the game.
7:35- Govens picks up his second foul on a made basket by Reed, who again misfires from the line. He comes out, but O’Brien come back in in an offense-for-defense sub with Baptiste. Govens is also going O-for-D as often as Martelli can get him.
7:33- Reed has his first block of the game, which really was more like him engulfing Crosgile on a dribble-drive, to set up Salecich for a long two from the corner. Salecich (and I apologize now to him, his family, St. Louis, and Australia for spelling his name wrong) has nine to lead all-scorers at this juncture.
7:30- Regardless of offensive worries, you have to like the Hawks’ defensive intensity so far. They have four steals and have caused five total turnovers, and are up 15-9 on the glass.
7:28- Apparently, Phil Martelli isn’t worried about the Hawks’ offensive stagnation towards the end of the first half in recent games. If he was, he probably wouldn’t have a lineup of Baptiste, Hilliard, Chris Prescott, Crosgile, and Charoy Bentley out there. Look like there may be changes on the other side of the under-eight media timeout. Score’s still 19-11 SJU, with 7:55 left.
7:27- Baptiste picks up a quick foul on a loose-ball situation. That’s five team fouls for St. Joe’s and none for St. Louis.
7:24- Well, there’s good news and bad news for Hawks’ fans. The good news is that O’Brien now has eight straight points and the student section is waving an Irish flag. The bad news is he just committed his second foul, and gives way to Carl Baptiste with 9:55 left and the Hawks up 19-11.
7:22- Make that six straight for O’Brien, but Salecich hits from three to cut the lead to 6. The Aussie has seven already, and is getting some open looks from three thanks to the penetration and kick of Mitchell.
7:21- The Hawks are pounding the paint early, as Hilliard has six already, and O’Brien has scored the last four to put them up 15-8.
7:17- Govens stuff Cassity down low, the Hawks second block already. It’s St. Louis that came in third in the league in blocks, helped by Willie Reed’s journey, with his 81 rejections this season, to the scorer’s table to check in.
7:13- A wild sequence sends us into the first media timeout, with Govens missing not one, but two five-foot jumpers in the lane, leading to a Mitchell run out that is rejected by Williamson, and another lay-in attempt that Ellis negates. Hawks still up 9-4 with 15:33 left.
7:11- Mitchell scores his first bucket on a blow by just past the 17-minute mark, but Hilliard responds by flying past a Willie Reed-less lane for a lay-in high off the glass. Govens follows suit after a Salecich missed jumper, and tight-black-sweater-clad Rick Majerus calls his first time out with 16:06 left and the Hawks up 9-4.
7:10- O’Brien picks up an early foul after missing a reverse lay-in on the but Reed misses both free throws (a feat which the student section takes credit for). Hilliard hits a lay-in over Reed to put the Hawks up 5-0.
7:06- The Hawks start out in straight man-to-man defense with Mitchell guarded by Williamson, who promptly strips Reed down low and finds Gvoens from behind the arc, who picks up right where he left off against the Bonnies by tickling the twine. Hawks up 3-0 early.
7:04- Starting lineups now, as the Billikens roll out Kwamain Mitchell, Christian Saleich, and Kyle Cassity in the backcourt, with Cody Ellis and Willie Reed up front.
The Hawks stay with their usual starting five, with Idris Hilliard and Todd O’Brien up front, Justin Crosgile, Darrin Govens, and Garrett Williamson in the backcourt. Govens had a big game on Sunday against St. Bonaventure with 22 points, and the Billikens will surely look to put a clamp on him early on
6:57- By the way, tonight’s game will be brought to you on television by The Comcast Network. Former Hawk broadcaster and current Phillies play-by-play man Tom McCarthy will be leading the way. Former Xavier, Virginia, and Providence head coach (and Fairfield alum) Pete Gillen is handling color commentary.
6:45- A couple other tidbits for you just before we get going here:
The Billikens have had their way with the Hawks of late. They are 3-2 all time against St. Joe’s, but have won the last three meetings, including two games at the old Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse (doesn’t that sound weird) in 2007 and 2008. For St. Joe’s last win against them, you have to go all the way back to the 2006 A-10 Tournament, in which it took 17 points and a career-high nine rebounds from Chet Stachitas for the Hawks to win.
Last year, the Billikens beat the Hawks 73-31 in St. Louis behind 17 points from Mitchell. Ahmad Nivins has 22 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort. It was game three in a five-game skid that sent St. Joe’s season spiraling downward.
The Billikens are also 3-1 in Philly under Majerus, but they have struggled away from the Chaifetz Arena this season, going just 2-7 on the road.
6:00- Defense has been the name of the game for St. Louis under Rick Majerus, and this year’s team is no different. The are near the top in the A-10 in almost every defensive category, and are ranked their in the nation in three-point percentage defense (26.6), 10th in scoring defense (59.4 ppg), and 19th in field-goal percentage defense (38.8 percent). They are used to playing games in the 60s, and are 30-4 under Majerus when they hold teams under that magic number. They’re also 7-0 when they top the 70 point mark, while St. Joe’s is 3-6 this season when they fail to hit 70 points.
Offensively, the young Billikens aren’t the most prolific team, ranking 13th in the conference in scoring offense at 59.4 ppg, but they’re still only eighth in field goal percentage and three-point percentage. Most of their scoring goes through Kwamain Mitchell, last weeks A-10 co-Player of the Week. He is averaging 16.2 ppg, the eighth highest total in the A-10. He’s helped out by Willie Reed, who averages 12.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest, the latter of which is ranked sixth best in the A-1. Cody Ellis has also emerged lately in the low post, averaging 11.5 ppg.
The Billikens are riding a two-game winning streak after a defeat of Philadelphia rivals La Salle, 68-65, over the weekend. St. Joe’s won its last game, toppling St. Bonaventure 78-71 on Sunday.
We’ll be back just before tip-off with lineups and play-by-play. Stay tuned.
5:45- Good evening, and welcome to the Hagan Arena for tonight’s clash between the Saint Joseph’s Hawks (9-14, 3-6 A-10) and the Saint Louis Billikens (14-8, 5-3 A-10). We’ll have live coverage right here starting at 6:00.
– Matthew De George ’10