Hawks Soaring As A-10 Tournament Nears

John FeeleyContributor IMarch 7, 2010

BIRMINGHAM, AL - MARCH 21:  Garrett Williamson #15 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks fights for a loose ball with Taylor Griffin #32 of the Oklahoma Sooner's during the first round of the East Regional as part of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center on March 21, 2008 in Birmingham, Alabama.  (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
Dave Martin/Getty Images

What a difference a week makes, especially when one looks at the Saint Joseph's Hawks.  The Hawks, left for dead after a 95-58 shellacking at the hands of Charlotte, are now in the Atlantic 10 tournament thanks to wins over George Washington and La Salle.  A team that was once looking at offseason plans is now looking towards new life when they take on the Rhode Island Rams at 7 PM on Tuesday.

The Hawks, behind the steady play of seniors Darrin Govens and Garrett Williamson, are one win from making a trip to Atlantic City but have a formidable test against a reeling URI squad.  The Rams are fresh off a tough road loss to UMass on Saturday that has put them on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.  While the Hawks are starting to show flashes of the consistency they have lacked all season, they still have to contend with a Rams squad that hung 101 points on them earlier in the season in a 101-74 loss in Kingston.

The key to the Hawks continuing their winning ways lies in the hands of senior guard Darrin Govens.  A highly touted recruit coming out of Chester, PA, Govens has never lived up to the hype of being a complete scorer and leader for the Hawks.  While he has shown flashes of his potential, his lack of consistency in his three-point shooting, defensive struggles, and missed late game opportunities have overshadowed the gaudy numbers he has put up on Hawk Hill.  If the Hawks are going to roll into Atlantic City, they are going to need Govens to continue his hot shooting, burying George Washington and La Salle for 19 and 17 points, respectively.

In addition to Govens hot shooting and Williamson's consistent play, St. Joe's is getting solid production off the bench in the form of 5'11", freshman guard Carl "Tay" Jones.  He had 15 points in the victory over La Salle but stole the show with some key scores late in the game to put away the Explorers. Jones has been one of the consistent offensive players for the Hawks this season and has stepped up his performance as rumors of an impending transfer swirl around Hawk Hill. 

While the Hawks need to continue the offensive production, they're going to need to step their game up on the defensive side of the ball if they have any chance against Rhode Island.  The first time these two teams played, the Rams shot 53.6 percent from the field while hitting nine first half threes to blow the game open early.  If St. Joes wants to win, they need to do a better job guarding the perimeter, something that has been an issue for Hawk teams of the recent past.  They will want to play fast, something they have tried to do all year with varying degrees of success.  Rhode Island can play both inside and outside so players like Idris Hilliard and Todd O'Brien are going to have to work hard on the interior, mainly attempting to control the glass.

Even though St. Joe's will not be favored in this game, their draw in the A-10 Tournament is very favorable.  URI is reeling after losing road contests to St. Bonaventure and UMass and are fading fast in the Atlantic 10.  A quick start for the Hawks will be key as they try to take the raucous Ryan Center crowd out of the game but consistency from the three-point line and on the defensive end will be the ultimate key to victory for St. Joe's. 

Prediction:  URI 80, SJU 72