Philadelphia, PA – The Saint Joseph’s Hawks are scheduled to play the La Salle Explorers, today, Sunday February 5th at Hagan arena. These two Big 5 rivals faced off earlier this year, with Saint Joe’s winning 71-59. The Hawks will look to expand their current win streak to three, with a victory over the Explorers. On the other side, La Salle is looking to build off of Wednesday’s impressive 75-64 win against George Washington.
Scouting La Salle
La Salle currently sits 13th in the Atlantic 10 at the time this was written (2/4). As mentioned, La Salle will look to build off the GW win in order to climb up the A10 rankings in what could be a big February push. Coach Dunphy, a seasoned Big 5 coach, will be looking at the tape from January’s SJU v. La Salle game to find where the Explorer’s can exploit this familiar opponent.
In my recap of the last SJU v La Salle game, I wrote how La Salle’s lack of “on-ball” pressure early was a surprise. In the start of A10 play, SJU struggled to secure the ball, and their inability to break the press was one of those reasons. La Salle, a gritty defensive team, should have played from a three quarter press at the start. Instead, they only played a half court defense and allowed SJU to bring the ball up with no challenge. This resulted in Saint Joe’s jumping to an early lead and never looking back. La Salle did put successful pressure on the ball in the second half, but it was too little too late.
For La Salle, they have the tools to win this game. They need to put early pressure on Saint Joe’s ball handlers to keep the score close. I know this strategy may result in earlier fatigue since it is a more physically demanding form of defense. However, the trade off is worth it if it can keep the red hot Hawks within striking distance with 5 minutes to go in the game.
A Quick Saint Joe’s Summary
Saint Joe’s currently sits at 7th in the conference standings. For those who do not follow the Hawks, SJU has had a major turn around this season, climbing back to a .500 conference and overall season record. To start A10 play, SJU lost its first four games. However, after that, they have gone on to win five of their last 6 A10 games. There are a few reasons for this. First, Saint Joe’s has matured as a team. When the game is on the line the Hawks have found a way to bounce back, stave off opponents runs, and make smart decisions to close out close games. A departure from what Hawk fans have experienced over the last four years.
In addition, the guard play for Saint Joe’s has been key. Erik Reynolds II and Lynn Greer III have synced with one another creating a dual threat that is complimented by the play of experienced seniors like Ejike Obinna and Cameron Brown. While Saint Joe’s does shoot the most three’s in the A10 still, this year it looks different as the three point attempts are no longer wild pull up jumpers. Instead they are mixed in evenly within the offense. The combination Obinna pick and rolls, and dribble drives by Reynolds and Greer, have led to more open “stand-still” three pointers. The amount of attempts is something to watch, but its the quality of those attempts which have turned SJU’s favor. There is still the errant pull up three pointer early in the shot clock. But, those types of shots have been less frequent.
It also helps when you have Cameron Brown and Erik Reynolds II ranked second and third in the A10 for three point percentage (40.8% and 36.7%).
Saint Joe’s Key to the Game
For Saint Joe’s it’s simple, make good decisions with the ball. If La Salle brings the press, Saint Joe’s guards need to secure the ball and find a way to bring it up without turning it over. La Salle’s offense is not complex, they rely on a lot of easy baskets, baskets that come off of their opponents sloppy turnovers.
Saint Joe’s needs to play smart, attack the rim early, and score with a mix of Reynolds/Greer drives to the basket, pick and rolls with Obinna, and Cameron Brown corner threes. If those three plays are used in harmony, and SJU secures the ball, I find it hard for La Salle to put up a fight in this game. However, if we turn this into a track meet, or a street fight, expect the Explorers to be right there at the end.
The game will be aired on both ESPN U at 12:00pm EST.
Like the coverage and want more? Follow me on twitter (@Jelly_Morelli) and check out my Saint Joe’s podcast, Hawk Talk! (@HawkTalkSJU)