Hawks bury ‘Cats in lopsided match-up



Cailin Brophy

What was supposed to be an in-the-trenches battle of the two best teams in Philly during the heat of rivalry week turned out to be no contest at all, as the Hawks of St. Joseph’s University handily defeated Villanova on Monday, 92-75.

The Wildcats simply had no answer for the full-court pressure and superb guard play of the Hawks, who forced the ‘Cats into no less than 17 turnovers in the first half alone, while holding them to only 23 first half points. Meanwhile St. Joe’s point guard Jameer Nelson, who is quickly establishing himself as one of the premier backcourt players in college hoops, was unstoppable in the opening stanza, hitting six of 12 shots, including four from beyond the arc, en route to 20 first half points, four assists and two steals. By the end of the contest, Nelson and his partner in crime, guard Delonte West, had combined for 55 backcourt points.

The ‘Cats “just played [against] an outstanding basketball team,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “I’m very impressed with their guards and the way they control the game. They just disrupt everything you do.”

The ‘Cats were a different team in the second half, committing only two turnovers, blocking four shots, improving their field goal percentage and getting the best of the Hawks in the hustle categories of points in the paint and second chance points.

Senior captains Ricky Wright and Gary Buchanan were the catalysts of the second-half run, with Wright establishing an inside presence and Buchanan adding his perimeter game. Wright finished the contest with 17 points, including a perfect seven-for-seven mark from the charity stripe, to go along with eight rebounds and three blocks.

Buchanan led his team in scoring with 19 points, half of which came from downtown, along with three assists and two steals. In the end, however, the hole the Wildcats had dug for themselves in the first half was too deep to find their way out of in only 20 minutes, with St. Joe’s doing what it needed to do to seal the victory.

The win gives the Hawks a perfect 3-0 record in the Big 5, with an impressive 16-3 mark on the season. The Wildcats fall to 12-8 overall, with a 2-2 mark in Big 5 play.

After a 5-0 start in the Big East, the Wildcats have now dropped three straight heading into a Saturday matchup at Miami, followed by a showdown at the First Union Center Tuesday against St. John’s. Despite the tough road that lies ahead, Wright remains confident in his squad.

“Obviously I’m not happy with our performance, but I like our team,” he said. “I know we have to improve and take care of the basketball and defend better, but I think we can and I want us to just keep working at it.”

The key for the ‘Cats in the upcoming weeks will be their ability to get back into high scoring action while at the same time holding opponents to a lower scoring average. Prior to the St. Joe’s matchup, the ‘Cats had scored 80 or more points in six of their last seven games. In their current three-game skid, the ‘Cats have averaged 74.3 points while allowing 85.6 to their opponents.