Philadelphia, PA – Saint Joseph’s and La Salle will look to face one another today at Hagan Arena in what is the final Big 5 matchup for both teams. This game has also been named the “Martin Luther King Jr. Day Series”, with this being the second of a ‘home and home’ series on the federal holiday; the first being held in 2021. The game will tip off at 4:00pm and will be aired on CBSSN.
As mentioned, the first game was in 2021 and was hosted by La Salle. La Salle won that game 90-83, which ended up being the Explorers only win of the year against Saint Joe’s. Both teams faced one another three times in the 2020-21 season, with Saint Joe’s winning the second regular season matchup, as well as the Atlantic 10 tournament play-in game in March.
Of course, those are just a few of the many games these two long standing rivals have participated in. Since 1949-1950, there have been a total of 100 games played between the Explorers and Hawks. Saint Joe’s has the edge in the series with a 55-45 record against the Explorers. Even within recent memory the series has been close. Since 2010, Saint Joe’s is 11-10 against La Salle. The tight margin shows that whether it’s 50 years, or 5 years, the game is always a toss up.
Saint Joe’s v. La Salle in 2021-22
Heading into tomorrow it appears that Saint Joe’s may have the upper hand. Under its third year of Coach Lange, Saint Joe’s has been able to find improvement in both the roster development and in overall record. Saint Joe’s is heading into the game with a 1-2 Atlantic 10 conference record after two tough games against URI and Davidson. Finally, a win today would keep Saint Joe’s in the title race for the Big 5. Temple would still need to beat Villanova for Saint Joe’s to walk away with a shared title. Still, it is a possibility for Saint Joe’s, in theory!
Unfortunately, there is no news of the postponed Temple v. Villanova game being rescheduled, so fans may be waiting a while to see if SJU is still in the hunt.
La Salle on the other hand has had a hard time finding any momentum during the Ashley Howard tenure. Inconsistent starting rotations, and mass transfers, both in and out of the program, have resulted in a La Salle team that has no consistent players in the locker room. La Salle has yet to win an Atlantic 10 game this season, and this may be one of the few opportunities the Explorers have where they don’t need a ‘perfect game’ to win.
Keys to the Game
There are a few keys to the game which both teams will need to account for. The first is rebounding. Saint Joe’s and La Salle are respectively second and third in the A-10 in rebounding. Both teams have good size and length in the paint. They are also both within the bottom half of the conference in shooting percentage. That means controlling the boards will be critical in this matchup. With both teams missing a healthy amount of shots, the team who gets the most second looks, or who can prevent their opponents second looks, will have a clear advantage. Look to the paint for a key 1:1 matchup between Saint Joe’s Ejike Obinna and La Salle’s Clifton Moore, as the two will be battling down low to secure precious rebounds for their team.
Another stat to watch is turnovers. Saint Joe’s has averaged 13 a game while La Salle has averaged 14. Similar to rebounding, it’s all about getting as many looks as possible for these teams. With shots not falling as easily, it is imperative that they minimize turnovers and maximize shots taken in order to generate as many scoring opportunities as possible.
In the end, Saint Joe’s should be the favorite heading into this matchup. Their top talent is far and away better than La Salle’s. However, what Saint Joe’s gains in top talent, La Salle makes up for in depth. Ultimately, while SJU is the favorite, there is an extremely high probability that La Salle can walk away with a win; and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did thanks to the depth of their rotation and Coach Howard’s willingness to change lineups quickly.
For its entire history the La Salle v. Saint Joe’s rivalry has been close, with both teams trading blows. Don’t expect that to change anytime in the future.
Like the coverage and want more? Follow me on twitter (@Jelly_Morelli) and check out my Saint Joe’s podcast, Hawk Talk! (@HawkTalkSJU)