‘Cats take shot at Hawks up next

Matthew Clark

This Monday Villanova will host St. Joseph’s for the Big 5 championship. The ‘Cats and the Hawks are the only undefeated teams left in the Big 5, and St. Joe’s is one of two undefeated teams left in the nation.

Offense: St. Joe’s is averaging about 79 points per game, but only two of their players average double figures each game. The Hawks main offense weapons are guards Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. Nelson and West are averaging 20.2 and 18.6 points per game respectively, and combine for half of the Hawk’s points. Neither, however, are known for their passing games, averaging a combined nine assists per game.

St. Joe’s is a first-half team, jumping out to a big lead in the beginning, then letting up in the second half.

‘Nova averages about 74 points per game and is able to spread the ball around with four players averaging double figures in points per game.

The ‘Cats weakness, though, is that they can become careless with the ball and give it away. They are averaging 17 turnovers, and have one of the worst assist-turnover ratios in the Big East, in front of only Rutgers and St. Johns. Another weakness ‘Nova has is their shooting. Why is Foye taking our last second shot?

With the one-two punch of Nelson and West, it is hard to take any offense over the Hawks at this point in the season. Advantage: Hawks

Defense: St. Joe’s is a solid defensive team this year, only giving up an average of 61 points per game, with the high being 81 against George Washington. The Hawks are not dominant on the boards, usually losing the battle underneath, but they make up for it in other areas. St. Joe’s is averaging 10 steals per game and is a plus six in the turnover ratio. What hurts the Hawks is the fact that they let up in the second half and let their opponents gets back into the game.

‘Nova has one of the best defenses in the nation, ranking 25th, holding opponents to a 39 field goal percentage. The Wildcats force 16 turnovers and six steals per game, and average 26 rebounds off the defensive glass.

I thought the ‘Cats had a good deffense untill the Rutgers game; Why do we fall apart int he second half and give away wide open jump shots? Advantage: Hawks

Bench: St. Joe’s does not have a deep bench; its main threats are Tyrone Barley and Chet Stachitas who combine to contribute about 14 points per game. Barley, a senior, is a guard who provides leadership on the floor when West or Nelson needs a rest. The problem is that there is no one else for the Hawks to turn to. Every Hawk gets playing time, and a few points here or there, but nothing to do back flips over. No one is a big impact bench player.

Villanova has four bench players averaging double-digit minutes per game. Will Sheridan, Andreas Bloch and Chris Charles are combining to shoot 56 percent from the field, while Derrick Snowden provides the essential senior leadership this team needs. Advantage: Wildcats

Keys to a victory for the Hawks: Let ‘Nova’s inexperience be their downfall. The Wildcats have a freshman point guard and three sophomores, so apply full court pressure and take the ‘Cats’ 17 turnovers per game. Control the boards on defense, ‘Nova doesn’t follow their shots; take away their second opportunities.

Actually, just give Nelson and West the ball. Last year they combined for 55 points.

Keys to a victory for the ‘Cats: Don’t get beaten mentally before you step out on the court. Control Nelson and West. In 2002 the ‘Cats held them to 13 and 10 points respectively. Do it again. Spread the ball around. So far in 11 of the ‘Cats’ victories, four or more players have scored double figures. Give the guards the ball to shoot. Don’t shoot the ball if you are cold, swallow your pride and pass the ball to someone who can make a shot!

Finally, St. Joe’s is a first-half team, jumping out to a big lead in the beginning, then letting up in the second half. So if ‘Nova coach Jay Wright can devise a game plan to foil both Nelson and West in the first half and keep the game close, the Hawks could be leaving the Main Line with their first loss of the season.

Other Facts: Historically, Villanova controls St. Joe’s. Last year was the first time in five years the Hawks topped the Wildcats in the Big 5 series. Villanova holds a 38-22 advantage all-time in the series including a 102-73 blow out in 2002; and held the Hawks to only eight points in 1939.

St. Joe’s is not as good of a basketball team as people think. They play in the A-10, a division which is only stronger than the Western Athletic Conference. The only good team the Hawks have faced was No. 10 Gonzaga in their home opener where St. Joes barely own. Other than that, their opponents have been UMass at 6-10 and Fordham at 9-12, along with no-name schools such as Pacific and San Francisco.

After the Rutgers game, unless Kerry Kittle, or Tim Thomas come back, ‘Nova needs a prayer; but has a chance. Hail Mary full of grace…