PHILADELPHIA, Pa. 2/4/12 – The La Salle Explorers came into the game leading the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Saint Joseph’s Hawks met the conference leader for the second time in ten days. This was a Saturday afternoon at the Palestra, something special. It was also a Big five game where the unexpected is the norm. The Hawks downed the league-leading Explorers 70 – 66.
“There is something magic about this building, about Philadelphia basketball on Saturday’s,” said Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli. “The energy in this building carries both teams. It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but I told the team they should feel good. They earned it. It was a team win.”
In order to pull off the upset Saint Joseph’s would need to use its size advantage. The guards got the bakset.The Hawks also had Sophomore forward Halil Kanacevic to get the ball inside. Kanacevic had a game-high 18 points, 15 points, and 4 assists which Saint Joseph’s would need to get the win. Along with C.J. Aiken the Hawks had a 30 – 16 advantage in points in the paint. Aiken added 7 rebounds to go along with his 8 points that gave Saint Joseph’s a 43 – 35 edge in rebounding.
“He is a play-maker,” said Martelli. “He has a view of the game that is older than his years. We have one creative passer on our team. We’ll play through him as often as we can.”
“He’s not just big, he’s good,” marveled LaSalle Coach Dr. John Giannini.
Saint Joseph’s took a 42 – 33 lead at halftime. The Hawks shot 56.7% in the half (17 – 30). La Salle made 10 of 28 in the half. However seven of those baskets were threes which kept La Salle in proximity. In the second half the game began to even out as the ball did not get inside as often for Saint Joseph’s.
“In the first half we were terrific at it,” said Martelli. “In the second half we weren’t as good at it, and got impatient and started to put the ball in the air. Even when we did get the ball inside, we rushed it.”
The Hawks maintained their lead in the half. It was still 9 at 61 – 52 with 7:27 to play on a tip in by Kanacevic. La Salle began their comeback. A basket by Junior guard Ramon Galloway followed by back to back three-pointers by Senior guard Earl Pettis brought La Salle to within a point at 61 – 60 with 4:41 on the clock. The Hawks would score the next six points to extend the lead to 7 at the 1:35 mark. That would be the last basket by the Hawks. The Explorers answered with 6 straight points, the last accentuated by a Pettis dunk with 11 seconds to play. Forced to foul LaSalle put Saint Joseph’s Center C.J. Aiken on the foul line with 9.2 seconds left. Aiken made both. LaSalle took ball downcourt but a missed three by Pettis ended La Salle’s chances.
“He (Pettis) rushed it and he knew it,” said Giannini. “He got the ball with a few seconds left, and he rushed it. It’s an easy thing to do.”
“We gave ourselves a chance to win the game. Saint Joseph’s size beat our quickness. I was most upset about our defense. In that first half we didn’t play with the intensity we’ve been playing with. This was a game we needed to win defensively.”
Junior guard Carl Jones was the only other double-figures scorer for Saint Joseph’s getting 13 points. Aiken had 8 points and 7 rebounds.
Pettis led LaSalle with 19 points, Ramon Galloway scored 14 points and had a team-high 7 rebounds. Sophomore guard Sam Mills contributed 11 points. La Salle made 11 of 25 three-point shots compared to one for Saint Joseph’s.
The Hawks have a 15 – 9 record, 5 – 4 in the Atlantic 10, and are 2 – 1 in the Big Five. The team prepares for a home game against Saint Louis on February 8. The Explorers are 17 – 7 overall, 6 – 3 in conference, and are 1 – 2 in the city series. The next game is a road trip to Richmond on February 8.
Written By: Glenn Papazian
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