PHILADELPHIA, December 21,2011 – The Saint Joseph’s Hawks were coming off a huge emotional win over the Villanova Wildcats. It was semester break and holiday time. In the Coppin State Eagles the Hawks were playing an opponent that was not well-known but played a distinctive, hard to defend style of basketball. This would be your classic dangerous game. The teams put up thirty three-point shots. Saint Joseph’s matched Coppin State from distance. The Hawks also had big contributions from Sophomore forward C.J. Aiken and Sophomore forward Hilal Kanacevic which helped them get past Coppin State 81 – 72 at the Hagan Arena.
Aiken scored a career-high 20 points in the contest. Six of his seven made field goals came on crowd pleasing dunks. Many of the passes Aiken took came from Kanacevic who had a career-high 8 assists. Kanacevic also contributed 8 rebounds and scored 7 points.
“The coaches told us this could be a trap game and they’d keep coming at us,” said Kanacevic. “The start was tough, but we were focused from the get go.”
“He was the best player on the floor,” Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli said about Kanacevic. “Eight assists and eight rebounds, that’s worth it. He does all the small things.”
In the first half Aiken put down three consecutive jams late in the first half after Coppin State took a 23 – 22 lead. Kanacevic passes to Aiken started the key run for the Hawks as the 15 – 5 run gave the team a 37 – 28 halftime lead. In that half Coppin State made 10 baskets, 8 from beyond the arc. Coppin State made 14 of 30 three-point shots. Saint Joseph’s made 12 of 29 which helped them contend with the difficult style of play.
“We know that was coming,” said Martelli. “The flurry was wasn’t unexpected. That’s the way they play. They spread you out and kick it out (for threes).”
While Saint Joseph’s took leads of 15 points three times in the second half, Coppin State would not go away. The Hawks lead 62 – 47 with 8:56 to play. The Eagles got to within 8 with just over two minutes to play, then to within 7 with just under a minute to play, and 6 at the 35 second mark at 78 – 72.
In addition to Aiken Saint Joseph’s had three other double-digit scorers. Sophomore guard Langston Galloway scored 18 points making 6 of 12 shots, 4 – 7 from three-point land. Galloway handed out 4 assists. Junior guard Carl Jones scored 16 points and grabbed a game-high 8 rebounds. Sophomore forward Darius Quarles contributed 10 points. The Hawks had 21 assists on their 28 baskets.
Coppin State, coached by Philadelphia native the legendary Fang Mitchell, had 3 players score in double figures. Forward Akeem Ellis and guard Tony Gallo each scored a game-high 21 points. Each player made 5 three-point field goals. Forward Michael Murray scored 10. Ellis and guard Taariq Cephas were credited with 5 assists. Coppin State was out-rebounded 39 – 29.
Saint Joseph’s is now 9 – 3 this season, and have won 4 straight and 6 of the last 7 games. With the win Phil Martelli tied Bill Ferguson for the school record for career victories with 309. The number does not have great meaning for Martelli. He treasures the association he shares with former Saint Joseph’s coaches Jack Ramsay, Jack McKinney, Jim Lynam, Harry Booth, Jim Boyle, and John Griffin. Martelli has a different perspective on the record.
“Just to have the honor of coaching here, that’s enough for me,” Martelli said. “The numbers mean you have good players and people around you who are supportive.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian