Hawks looking for third straight win

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SJU needs Halil Kanacevic  to get involved offensively against Morgan State. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

SJU needs Halil Kanacevic to get involved offensively against Morgan State. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Garrett Miley (@GWMiley)

Last season, Morgan State came into Hagan Arena and was blown out by Saint Joseph’s, 81-50. The 31-point victory was the largest margin of victory for the Hawks last year and all signs points to a similar outcome this season.

Coming into their matchup with the Hawks last season, Morgan State was just 2-7 overall and this season the Bears are holding a 3-7 record through their first ten games of the season.

Hawks coach Phil Martelli has been stressing the importance of offensive balance to his team over the past several weeks, and the Hawks were an extremely balanced team last season against Morgan State. Carl Jones, Langston Galloway, Ronald Roberts Jr., and Chris Wilson all cracked double figures for the Hawks. Of their 64 field goal attempts, just 19 were from behind the arc. Decreasing their reliance on three-point attempts and encouraging players to get to the rim has been a goal for the Hawks lately.

Despite their recent success against Iona and Drexel, Saint Joseph’s still took a large percentage of their shots from behind the three point line. Most notably against Drexel when Saint Joseph’s took 22 of their 51 shots from long range.

Halil Kanacevic returned from suspension in the Hawks’ last game against Drexel but struggled in his first game back, shooting just one of eight from the floor. Kanacevic is a major part of the balanced offense that Martelli and Saint Joseph’s are striving to achieve so it will be important for the Hawks’ to get him involved against Morgan State.

C.J. Aiken is shooting the ball well from distance lately. (Photo Credit: Josh Verlin)

C.J. Aiken is shooting the ball well from distance lately. (Photo Credit: Josh Verlin)

The play of C.J. Aiken in Saint Joseph’s last two games has been the brightest spot of the season so far fo the Hawks. Against Iona, Aiken scored a season high 22 points, gabbed nine rebounds and had four blocks as Saint Joseph’s went on to score a season high 96 points in their victory over the Gaels. Then Aiken was perfect from the floor against Drexel. He was 6-6 from the field, grabbed eight rebounds and had six blocks.

Aiken struggled early on with his three point shot, but his season three point shooting percentage is now just below 30 percent. In his last five games, Aiken is averaging 14.8 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, and 4.2 blocks per game. He is also shooting 46 percent from behind the arc over that period.

Morgan State is led by their two seniors, forward Dewayne Jackson and guard Anthony Hubbard. Jackson and Hubbard lead the Bears in scoring, averaging 14.0 and 13.7 points per game respectively.

Last season against the Hawks, Jackson scored eight points and really struggled offensively for the Bears. He shot just 3-13 from the floor and failed to pull down a single rebound in the 81-50 blowout.

Hubbard was not on the Morgan State roster last season against Saint Joseph’s, but he has one of the most interesting stories in college basketball this year. After spending four years in prison after committing armed robbery at the age of 18, Hubbard played basketball for Frederick Community College. Hubbard has since transferred to Morgan State and, in his first season as a Bear, is the team’s second leading scorer. He is the team’s leading rebounder averaging 7.2 rebounds per game, but is turning the ball over 4.4 times per game.

Both team’s are averaging right around 68 points per game this season, but the differences between the teams lies defensively. Morgan state is giving up an average of 65.6 points per game this season, while Saint Joseph’s has been significantly better defensively. The Hawks are giving up just 58.7 points per game this season, and Martelli has stated all season long that this Saint Joseph’s team is a defensive team.

Saint Joseph’s defense should be the difference that allows them to leave Baltimore, MD. with a victory over Morgan State. The Hawks’ Galloway and Aiken have the ability to take over a game on both ends of the court and should continue to make big plays against Morgan State on Saturday.

Tip-off between Saint Joseph’s and Morgan State is set for 4 p.m. EST at the Hill Field House in Baltimore, MD.

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