If you missed Tuesday night in the Atlantic 10, you missed one heck of a slate of hoops. St. Bonaventure and Davidson went to triple overtime before the former outlasted the latter, but before that game went down, the most shocking occurrence of the 2017-18 season unfolded before our eyes: URI got crushed — at home.
Yes, Saint Joseph’s was the team that did the deed, and behind 21 points from James Demery and a perfect shooting night from Taylor Funk, the Hawks rolled through Kingston and ended up with a win. And it wasn’t just a win; it was an easy win. SJU dominated from tip to finish as the Rams couldn’t hit any shot they took. Saint Joseph’s took a 78-48 victory, holding Rhode Island to just 3-29 (10.3%) shooting from long range.
SJU on the rise
While this is shocking mostly because of how bad Rhode Island played on an emotional senior night, it’s also worth noting how the Hawks have been picking up their stride lately. That win marks Saint Joseph’s 5th of its last 6, and the Hawks’ one loss was at home courtesy of a George Mason buzzer beater (2nd of the season).
More importantly, the Hawks are now winning on the road and gaining some momentum before conference play. That marked SJU’s 4th true road win of the season, and it’s no secret that Phil Martelli’s ball clubs have historically been good away from home. The last time the Hawks made the NCAA Tournament (2016), they recorded 9 true road wins over the course of the season and made it to the Round of 32.
A chance for a double bye
The all-so-important double bye is on the line in the A-10, and the Hawks have a chance to secure the 4 seed, meaning they wouldn’t have to play their first game in D.C. until Friday. This would be big for stamina purposes, but it also means SJU’s path to an NCAA Tournament bid (winning the A-10 Tournament) is one game shorter.
Should Saint Louis lose on the road to Duquesne tonight, SJU will be tied for 4th with the Billikens. However, Saint Louis holds the head-to-head tiebreaker if these 2 teams end up with the same conference record at the end of this weekend. That means the only chance for SJU to secure that double bye is if SLU loses its last 2 games of the season and the Hawks take care of La Salle at home this weekend,
Either way, Saint Joseph’s has to like the position it’s in, as a potential 5 seed seems very feasible for this ball club right now. That would lead to a relatively easy game on Thursday followed by a chance to reach the semis should they get past SLU in the quarterfinals.
Seniors get the job done
We know how important seniors are to a developing ball club, and Shavar Newkirk and James Demery have proven that to be true down the stretch in conference play. The two compliment one another very well, and in a year where the Hawks faced some devastating injuries, these two have picked up the slack.
If the Hawks are looking to make a run in Washington D.C. and somehow make it to the Big Dance, they’re going to need these two to be rock-solid throughout the duration of the tourney. Combine that with a hot Taylor Funk and a guy like Nick Robinson who can score in double figures on any given night, and you’ve got one heck of a team that is poised to make a run.