It’s Atlantic 10 action at the Cintas Center, Wednesday night, when Phil Martelli brings his St. Joe’s Hawks (9-16/ 3-8) to Cincinnati for a showdown with Chris Mack and his Xavier Musketeers (17-7/ 8-2).
The Hawks will be playing with a sense of urgency. A win over the Musketeers could make up for an otherwise disappointing season.
Tomorrow night’s game is Xavier’s first home tilt in the month of February. The Muskies head back out on the road for two more games before finishing the month at Cintas against Richmond.
St. Joe’s has yet to win a conference road game this season. The matchup is part of the Jesuit Basketball Spotlight project, using basketball to promote Jesuit education.
Xavier's B.J. Raymond and Derrick Brown each scored 18 last year against St. Joe's, as the Muskies won at the Palestra, 68-54. The Hawks lead the all-time series 21-16.
Xavier has earned 20 NCAA Tournament berths, including last year’s Sweet Sixteen run and Elite Eight showings in 2004 and 2008. St. Joe’s has made 19 appearances (five under Martelli) in The Dance. The Hawks advanced to the Elite Eight in 2004.
Sixteen Musketeers have played in the Association, including current stars Derrick Brown, James Posey, and David West. Eighteen Hawks have laced them up in the NBA, including Jameer Nelson and Delonte West.
Anything can happen in conference play. The Hawks will look to pull the upset, while the Musketeers will do what they can to avoid a pitfall.
Xavier averages 79 points per game while St. Joe’s scores 69. The Musketeers limit opponents to less than 69 points per game. Xavier grabs 38.7 rebounds per game to St. Joe’s 32.9.
Xavier is accustomed to playing a faster-paced game than St. Joe’s. The Muskies will need to guard against getting careless.
Darrin Govens leads three Hawks in double figures with 13.2 per game. The senior guard leads the Hawks with 54 three-pointers this season. Govens has 18 double digit games, including a 21-point performance against Fordham where he hit five of seven from behind the arc.
St. Joe’s starts three guards. Justin Crosgile and Garrett Williamson combine for almost 19 per game.
Todd O’Brien leads the Hawks with 6.4 rebounds. The sophomore had a double-double in a loss to St. Louis last week.
Idris Hilliard rounds out the starting five. The junior forward scores 10 points and grabs 5.8 boards.
Jordan Crawford leads the Muskies with 19.6 points. The sophomore transfer hit 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc. Crawford forced too much earlier in the year, but the Detroit native has let the game come to him of late. He is averaging almost three assists per game.
Terrell Holloway gets the Xavier offense moving. The sophomore point guard averages 11 points per game while maintaining an assist to turnover ratio of 2.1 : 1.
Jason Love connects on 59.8 percent of his shots. The senior center averages nearly a double-double with 11 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Jamel McLean has been coming on over the last month after a slow start. The junior has had double-digit rebounding performances in two of his last three games.
Dante Jackson does whatever is needed for his team to win. The junior small forward is capable of defending smaller guards or bigger post players. Jackson can also fill it up. Against Dayton, the native of Greenfield, Oh., went 5-of-8 from long range for a career-high 19 points.
St. Joe’s doesn't have an answer to the Xavier bench. Brad Redford leads the Muskies with a three-point percentage of 43.9. Holloway is adept at finding Redford open in transition for the trifecta. Kenny Frease chips in six points and nearly five rebounds. Mark Lyons adds 7.6 points and relentless pressure on the perimeter.
Xavier can only beat themselves tomorrow night. The Muskies will need to show the ability to get prepared emotionally for what should be a win. This could be challenging coming off a big victory at Florida over the weekend.
St. Joe’s will keep it close in the first half. McLean will have a career night as the Muskies win by double digits.