By Sean Kennedy
Saint Joseph’s 79, Dayton 53
The Hawks staked their postseason claim last night, easily dispatching the Flyers to win their 5th straight game and 20th victory of the season. In a game between two teams on or near the tournament bubble, St. Joe’s left no doubt as to which school belonged, never trailing in the game and shooting 58% from the field on the night, while holding Dayton to just 32%. The loss was a huge blow to the Flyers’ postseason hopes as they have a very difficult remaining schedule, closing the regular season against UMass, Saint Louis, and Richmond.
Ronald Roberts, Jr. led the Hawks with 22 points and 7 rebounds, while Chris Wilson added a career-high 20 points on perfect 8-8 shooting (including 3-3 from behind the arc). Halil Kanacevic contributed his usual jack-of-all-trades routine with 10 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 blocks. The Hawks will look to keep the momentum going when they travel to St. Bonaventure this weekend, but barring an epic collapse, St. Joe’s fans should get fitted for dancing shoes.
7:00 PM: Drexel (15-12, 7-7 CAA) vs. Charleston (14-15, 6-8 CAA)
The Dragons will honor their talented senior class in their final home game as collegiates, and look to avenge a last-second loss to the Cougars in the process. Charleston’s Willis Hall hitting that shot with 4 seconds left hurt even more because Drexel outplayed the Cougars but suffered their worst shooting performance of the season. In that contest, Drexel shot 32% from the field, 48% from the line, and failed to hit a three-pointer. Fresh off their best win of the season at Delaware, the boys from University City should put forth a more accurate performance this time around.
With a victory, Drexel will solidify a place in the 4/5 matchup of the CAA conference tournament. To do so, they’ll have to contain Willis Hall, which they actually did fairly well last game aside from his last-second heroics. Hall nearly averages a double-double, leading the Cougars in both scoring (12.3) and rebounding (9.3), while also representing the second-most dangerous threat from behind the arc (38%). Charleston is fighting to remain in that same 4/5 matchup as the Dragons, but with Chris Fouch, Frantz Massenat, Dartaye Ruffin all playing their last game in front of the DAC home crowd, expected a spirited Drexel performance to result in the sweet taste of revenge.
7:00 PM: La Salle (12-14, 4-8 A-10) vs. St. Bonaventure (16-11, 6-7 A-10)
La Salle’s recent play has been reminiscent of the Sixers without the grand tanking plan as the Explorers have lost five straight with only one of those losses even by single digits. With 4 regular season games remaining and just 2 games separating them from last place, La Salle is actually in danger of slipping to one of the two bottom spots and the initial play-in game for the A-10 tournament. They’ll need to turn things around against a St. Bonaventure squad that already trounced them in New York back in January. The Bonnies have won 3 of their past 4 games as they look to hit their stride heading into postseason play.
St. Bonaventure has been plugging away with a NCAA tournament-caliber offense led by senior guard Matthew Wright at 16 ppg. Wright is top-25 in the nation in FT% at 88.3% and earns trips to the charity stripe at a decent clip. For La Salle, Tyreek Duren has been better of late, and Jerrell Wright has been his usual, consistent self, but they need much more help from their teammates down the stretch run of the season here. Steve Zack has gone invisible on the offensive end and Tyrone Garland has been anything but, as his 34% shooting from the field as been a glaring eyesore for the Explorers all season long. If somebody doesn’t step for the Explorers tonight at home, there’s a good chance they’ll find themselves in the basement in the next two weeks.
8:00 PM: Villanova (24-3, 12-2 Big East) vs. Butler (12-15, 2-13 Big East) – Fox Sports 1
Villanova has barely squeaked by in its last two games, but they all show up the same in the wins column and the Wildcats remain just a half-game back of Creighton for first-place in the Big East. They’ll look to keep pace Wednesday against a Butler team that has now lost 6 straight games and finds itself in the cellar of the new Big East conference in the first season following former coach Brad Stevens’ departure to the NBA. Despite their struggles, Butler did almost topple the Wildcats on New Year’s Eve, with Villanova needing overtime to come away with the victory.
In that first meeting, sophomore guard Kellen Dunham paced the Bulldogs with 22 points and leads the team at 17 ppg, although he is shooting just 39% from the field. Senior forward Khyle Marshall is the only other significant scoring threat for Butler at 15 points per game and is coming off a 22-point effort last game against Providence. The Wildcats haven’t been playing their best ball lately, but they’ll finally be back at the Pavilion, where they haven’t played in nearly three weeks. We’ve seen time and again that Villanova is a different team on their home campus and tonight against a reeling Butler squad should prove no different.