Saint Joseph's-Penn gameday preview

Saturday evening, Saint Joseph's and Penn will square off in a Big 5 battle at The Palestra. The 9-9 Quakers are 2-0 in the Ivy, while the Hawks have struggled a bit of late, and have dropped to 12-7 on the season, and 2-3 in Atlantic 10 conference play. Saturday's Big 5 contest is an important one for both teams.

On Wednesday, without leading scorer Carl Jones, the Hawks fell at Xavier, losing for the fourth time in their last six games. Over that stretch, Saint Joseph's has losses at Harvard, at home to Charlotte, at UMass, and at Xavier. Their two wins are an overtime thriller at Duquesne and a home win against Fordham.

Penn is coming off of consecutive Ivy League road wins against Columbia and Cornell. The Quakers are led by senior guards Zach Rosen and Tyler Bernardini, who combine for nearly 34 points per game. A glaring weakness for the Quakers is their performance on the boards. Penn averages only 31.6 rebounds per game, which ranks them 302nd nationally in that category.

Last year, Penn defeated the Hawks 73-61. In that one, Bernardini had a career-high 27 points for the Quakers. Hawk Hill Hardwood spoke with Saint Joseph's assistant coach Dave Duda about Bernardini and Rosen.

"We have focused a lot on Rosen and the ball-screen action they have for him," Coach Duda began. "We will mix our defense on him." Bernardini's 27 points against the Hawks last year also did not go unnoticed. "We will stay attached to him," Duda said about Bernardini. "We may play Roberts (sophomore forward Ron Roberts) on him, even though he is a perimeter player," Duda continued. "He may be best suited to guard him."

The Hawks have been a team that has thrived in the open court but struggled for most of the year in half-court sets. Coach Duda said that the coaching staff is well aware of that and "is looking for improvement in the half-court offense."

On Wednesday evening, junior guard Carl Jones sat for the first time this season. The electric scoring guard leads the Hawks at just over 17 points a game. Jones sprained his ankle against UMass and is uncertain for Saturday night. At Xavier, with Jones sitting, freshman Chris Wilson got the start in his place. Wilson had a rough go of it against Xavier's dynamic backcourt, going scoreless and turning the ball over 3 times in 25 minutes of action.

Whether Jones is a go or not for the Hawks on Saturday, his team needs a win in the worst kind of way. If Tay is unable to go, Penn would certainly have the edge in terms of guard play. Bernadini and Rosen would be tough for Galloway, Wilson, and freshman Evan Maschmeyer to contain. On the flip side, Saint Joseph's should have a clear advantage on the inside. C.J. Aiken, Ron Roberts, and Halil Kanacevic should be able to have productive nights against Penn's frontcourt.

Both Penn and Saint Joseph's return to league play following Saturday night's tilt. Penn hosts Princeton next Monday while Saint Joseph's hosts Dayton on Wednesday. The Hawks and Quakers would both like to enter those games on a winning streak.

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