Garrett Miley (@GWMiley)
After a wild weekend in Brooklyn, NY where the Hawks upset 20th ranked Notre Dame on Friday and fell to the Florida State Seminoles in the Coaches vs. Cancer championship, the Saint Joseph’s Hawks now turn their attention to a much anticipated rematch against Harvard.
Last season, the Hawks held a 48-38-halftime lead over the then 23rd ranked Crimson. The second half was a different story for SJU. The Hawks went 0-8 from behind the arc shot 29.6 percent from the field on their way to blowing a 10-point lead and losing to Harvard 74-69. The bulk of the scoring for SJU came from the starting backcourt of Langston Galloway and Carl Jones.
While the rematch between the two teams is much-anticipated, the Hawks aren’t looking at the game as a rivalry or revenge game.
“We’re not looking at it that way,” junior forward C.J. Aiken said. “We’re just trying to get a win. Coach told us that good teams don’t lose two straight so that’s the only thing on our mind.”
While the Hawks are just a more improved version of what they were a season ago, thanks to the development of sophomore point guard Chris Wilson and the insertion of Ronald Roberts, Jr. into the starting lineup. Over the first three games of the season, Wilson is averaging 11 points per game and has only committed two turnovers. With the return of Jones after his three-game suspension, the Hawks now know they have a new added dimension in their backcourt they can turn to in Wilson.
“Chris has really stepped up and I’m proud of him because he’s a really hard working,” Roberts said of his teammate. “He is one of my closest friends on the team. We talk a lot, and we work hard together.”
Harvard underwent major roster changes. Starting forward Keith Wright (10.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season) graduated, while starters Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry withdrew from the university because after they were linked to a cheating scandal.
Despite the scandal, Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker has his team playing at a high level again this season, fresh off an NCAA tournament bid. This was Harvard’s first NCAA appearance since 1946 when they went to the Elite 8 before losing to Ohio State.
Forwards Casey and Wright combined to score 42 points against the Hawks last season, but this season Harvard is leaning on its guard play early on in the season to pick up the scoring load. Sophomore guard Wesley Saunders is averaging 13.0 points per game, while freshman guard Siyani Chambers is average 12.7 points per game while logging a whopping 37 minutes per contest thus far.
“Harvard is not missing a beat at the point guard spot,” Hawks’ head coach Phil Martelli said. “Chambers is a wonderful young player and everything they do is dictated by his play.”
Guards Lurent Rivard and Christian Webster are also averaging double figures for the Crimson, with 10.7 and 10.3 points per game, respectively. It is evident that the losses of Casey and Wright changed the offensive philosophy of Harvard, and it has become extremely guard-oriented.
Martelli added that even though Harvard missing a significant portion of last year’s team, Harvard still carries with them all of the success and experience from last season.
“What they’ve carried over from last season is their swagger,” Martelli said. “When you watch them you say ‘they’re a team that played in the NCAA tournament last year’. They all feel that and they handle their business on the court that way. They play with that swagger and winning attitude.”
The Hawks’ starting trio of forwards should look to to exploit their size advantage they hold over the Harvard front-court, especially on the offensive end of the floor. The starting Harvard front-court of Steve Moundou-Missi and Kenyatta Smith stand only 6-7 and 6-8, respectively. The dominance the Hawks have shown on the glass in the first three games of the season is represented by their plus-5 rebounding margin, mainly due to the efforts of Ronald Roberts.
In the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic this past weekend, Roberts amassed a total of 27 rebounds between the Notre Dame and Florida State games on his way to earning Atlantic 10 and Big 5 Player of the Week honors. Roberts is leading the Hawks in both points and rebounds per game early on in the 2012-2013 season, proving that he belongs in the SJU starting lineup.
“I’m pleased with the message that Ron sends,” Martelli said of Roberts’ early season efforts. “He is a prime example of what it means to work in the offseason, to prepare in the offseason, and to acknowledge weaknesses. Anything that comes his way, he deserves and he has earned.”
Tip-off between the Saint Joseph’s Hawks and the Harvard Crimson is set for 8:00 pm on Tuesday in Michael J. Hagan arena and will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.