SJU kicks off season hosting Yale

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SJU coach Phil Martelli has to deal with the loss of starting guard Carl Jones to suspension for the next two games. (Photo: Mark Jordan)

Garrett Miley (@GWMiley)

Fresh off of their exhibition victory Wheeling (W.Va.) Jesuit, Saint Joseph’s will tipoff their 2012-2013 season against Yale at 7 p.m. on Monday in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at home in Michael J. Hagan Arena.

The Hawks will once again be without starting guard Carl Jones against the Bulldogs because of his three-game suspension for violating the university’s community standards. The biggest question for Saint Joseph’s entering this game has to be whether or not sophomore Chris Wilson can step up and fill the hole left by Jones’ suspension.

In the Hawks Coaches vs. Cancer exhibition against the Cardinals, Wilson scored 10 points and put up a 7-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio, a good sign for Wilson and the Hawks. Turnovers were fairly limited for Saint Joseph’s last season at 12.6 per game, and could be a significant factor in their matchup against Yale. The Bulldogs averaged 14.1 turnovers per game last season, good for 233rd in the country.

The Hawks have enough talent in their frontcourt between junior starters Ronald Roberts, Halil Kanacevic and C.J. Aiken to cause deadly mismatches for their foes all season long. Limiting turnovers is going to be key for the Hawks without the offensive firepower of Jones.

One thing the Hawks will look to lean on to ease the scoring loss from Jones’ absence will be the proficient 3-point shooting of junior guard Langston Galloway. In the exhibition game against Wheeling Jesuit, Galloway went 5-of-8 from deep, including four in the first half. While it’s hard to fathom Galloway improving on his three-point shooting percentage from last season (47 percent), the junior guard is showing no signs of regressing from that number. Yale ranked 125th in Division I basketball last season in 3-point field goal defense, allowing their opponents to shoot 33.2 percent from downtown.

Junior forward Ronald Roberts, Jr. had 19 points and six rebounds for the Hawks in the Wheeling Jesuit exhibition. (Photo: Mark Jordan)

Forward Ronald Roberts, now in a starting role after winning Sixth Man of the Year in the A-10 last season, flourished in his new role in the exhibition opener going 7-for-7 from the field and tallying 19 points for the Hawks. The athletic Roberts, after all the work he put in this offseason, could have another breakout season and build on the success he was able to find last season. His defense of perimeter players will be intriguing against Yale’s array of 3-point shooters.

The Bulldogs (19-10 overall last season) had their struggles away from home last season, so head coach James Jones will look to reverse that trend from the get-go for his Yale team. Yale is a new look team compared to last season. After losing the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, Reggie Willhite, and two-time All-Ivy Team selection Greg Mangano, Yale needs their new frontcourt players to step up and immediately fill the void.

Jones’ Bulldogs ranked 39th in the nation last season in rebound margin (+4.7 per game), something they will need to continue to do to improve their odds against Saint Joseph’s, who ranked 95 spots lower than Yale at +1.4 per game.

“Right away you know that they lost 30 points (per game) from last year,” Hawks head coach Phil Martelli said immediately after the exhibition opener against Wheeling Jesuit. “They lost a 7-footer and another big kid, but if we play like that we are not beating Yale. We have three days to really sharpen our game up.”

The Bulldogs biggest strength heading into the season is their senior backcourt tandem of Austin Morgan and Michael Grace. Morgan, who averaged 11.8 points per game last season, is an exceptional shooter from both behind the arc and the free throw line.

Also expected to make a big contribution this season is freshman forward Justin Sears, a 6-7 wing who had 19 points and seven rebounds in Yale’s season-opening 85-82 overtime loss to Sacred Heart on Saturday. Morgan dropped a team-high 28 points in the loss, making 6-of-11 from beyond the arc.

Yale isn’t the only thing Martelli and the Hawks will be battling on Monday–this is not just your typical season opening tournament.

The Coaches vs. Cancer Classic works hand-in-hand with the American Cancer Society to raise money in the fight against cancer. Martelli addressed the Saint Joseph’s crowd in the second half of the Hawks exhibition game against Wheeling Jesuit, asking anyone who had beaten cancer to stand up and be recognized. Aiken, a pediatric cancer survivor, then joined Martelli at center court in what was a very empowering and motivating moment in Hagan Arena.

“The thing is with cancer, nobody is immune,” Martelli said after the Wheeling Jesuit game. “You saw students stand up, you saw adults stand up. I hope for these students, and if not these students then for their children, that we be cancer free. I have to believe that somebody, somewhere has the ‘magic dollar’ that’s going to open the vault so that we can have a celebration and not always be fundraising and offering a shoulder for people to cry on.”

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