PHILADELPHIA, December 17, 2011 – It was the first time that the Saint Joseph’s Hawks would host arch-rival Villanova Wildcats in the game known as The Holy War in their campus arena. Saint Joseph’s made history as they defeated Villanova 74 – 58 at the Hagan Arena. The game would be added to Big Five lore as the excitement on Hawk Hill could be described as historic as well. There was magic in the air.
“It was unbelievable,” said Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli. “When I cam across 54th Street, I’d never seen anything like it (the line of students waiting to get in the doors). They handled it appropriately, and cheered for their team. No one could have overcome that atmosphere.”
“He (Villanova Coach Jay Wright) thought it was cool to be involved in something historic,” Martelli said. I respect his team for taking this challenge. We can us this as a building block.”
“It makes you proud to be part of the Big Five,” said Wright.
The game itself matched the intensity in the stands. In the first half there were six lead changes. Saint Joseph’s would score 12 consecutive points to take a 9 point lead at 21 – 12. Villanova fought back to close the deficit to 3 at halftime trailing 30 – 27. The start of the second half would decide the game. The Hawks behind Sophomore guard Langston Galloway and Sophomore forward Darius Quarles would sprint to a 41 – 29 lead with 16:42 to play. The run was the result of good defense and team play. In that span the Hawks would get 4 blocked shots, 2 by Sophomore forward C.J. Aiken and Sophomore forward Hilal Kanacevic. The blocks resulted in Saint Joseph’s getting out in transition that led to a dunk by Aiken, and follow-up dunk by Galloway, and a jumper by Junior guard Carl Jones.
“It was a terrific defensive performance,” Martelli said of the second half run. “We felt if we could get stops, we would get run-outs. Those plays are worth more than two points.”
“You can’t give up 8 points to start the half,” Wright said. “It was pivotal.”
Saint Joseph’s found the inside later in the half as Sophomore forward Ronald Roberts 6 straight Hawks points to keep his team in front. The Crimson and Gray kept the lead never letting Villanova get closer than 7 points. The exclamation mark for the Hawks came when Aiken made a steal, then slammed home a dunk a lob pass by Jones. That play gave Saint Joseph;s a 67 – 51 lead with 4:56 on the clock.
The Hawks played efficient basketball getting 21 assists on 31 baskets. Finding openings inside led to a 44 – 28 advantage in points in the paint for the Hawks. Villanova played much of the game with Junior Center Mouphtaou Yarou who was hindered by an ankle sprain. The Hawks made just over 50% from the floor. Offensive struggles continue for Villanova as the Wildcats made 21 of 63 field goal attempts, and just 5 of 27 from beyond the arc.
Junior guard Maalik Wayns led Villanova with 19 points. He had 4 assists and no turnovers. Freshman forward Marcus Kennedy led Villanova in rebounds with 7 and he contributed 8 points. The Wildcats are 6 – 5 on the season. They finish 2 – 2 in the Big Five, their worst mark since the 2002-03 season when they went 2 – 2. The Blue and White meet American University at home on December 22.
“The confidence they’re playing with (Saint Joseph’s), they’re making shots and we’re missing layups,” said Wright. “Sometimes you’ve got to go through this. We’ll learn from it.”
Saint Joseph’s improves to 8 – 3 this year, and the Hawks win their initial Big Five game. Coppin State is next for Saint Joseph’s. Martelli views this game as an important contest for his team to continue to build momentum.
“The only value that this win has is if we follow it up on Wednesday,” said Martelli. “We have home games we have to win, and we’re a pretty good home team right now.”
For tonight the team and can take pride in what they accomplished on Hawk Hill.
“We are honored to represent those students and the Big Five,” said Martelli.
Written By: Glenn Papazian