Hawks-Owls Preview

On Saturday afternoon, Temple and Saint Joseph's will collide in a battle of city and conference rivals. The Owls have taken the last nine contests between the two teams. Saint Joseph's enters the city showdown at 13-8 on the year, and 3-3 in conference play. The 14-5 Owls currently stand at 3-2 in Atlantic 10 action.

Saint Joseph's is coming off an impressive 77-63 win on Wednesday night against Dayton at Hagan Arena. The Hawks got a career-high 27 points from sophomore forward Ron Roberts in the winning effort. Temple is fresh off a complete thrashing of Charlotte on the road. Temple took down the 49ers 79-57 behind 18 points from senior guard Ramone Moore.

Saturday's game is of equal importance for both teams, and both head coaches said so themselves on 94.1 WIP Friday morning. Fran Dunphy and Phil Martelli both appeared on WIP's morning show and discussed the importance of Saturday's game for both teams. For the Hawks, a win would end their losing streak against the Owls and vault them up the conference standings. A win for Temple would continue them on a path for an at-large tournament bid come March.

As it stands today, Temple sits at 16th nationally in RPI, according to RealTimeRPI.com. The Hawks, following Wednesday's win against Dayton, are at 54.

The key to Saturday's game for both teams could likely be tempo and style of play. For the Owls, there is no question that their strength lies in the play of their trio of talented guards: Juan Fernadez, Ramone Moore, and Khalif Wyatt. The three dynamic guards combine for an average of 45 and over 10 assists per contest. All three are capable of strong offensive outbursts. Moore has a 32-point game against Villanova, Wyatt a 28-point game against Dayton, and Fernandez a 23-point game against Rice.

Saint Joseph's two starting guards are also capable of piling up points, with Carl Jones dropping 38 points on Seton Hall and Langston Galloway putting 32 on Penn this year. Jones and Galloway are the Hawks' two leading scorers, both over 16 points a game.

If the Hawks are to have a shot at the upset win on Saturday, it could likely hinge on the success of their frontcourt. Sophomores Halil Kanacevic, Ron Roberts, and C.J. Aiken should have a decided advantage against Temple's frontcourt, just like Temple should have an advantage on Temple in terms of guard and wing play.

Aiken is currently the second-leading shot-blocker in the nation, at 4.3 swats a contest. His ability to play goalie by the rim does alter the opponents' game-plan. On Wednesday, against Dayton, Aiken tallied 14 points and 5 blocked shots.

Ron Roberts' career-high 27 against Dayton was the difference in the win. Roberts is a freak athletically, but has struggled at times this year from the free throw line. On Wednesday, however, he hit 7-9 from the stripe and showed an improved stroke. He did shoot 1-10 from the line earlier this year against Fordham. If Roberts goes to the line on Saturday against Temple, he needs to knock down 50+ percent of those attempts.

Kanacevic is Saint Joseph's leading rebounder, and is actually tied for first on the Hawks in assists, at 3.5 per game. This is coming from a 6'8 power forward. Kanacevic will need to provide strong interior defense against Temple, limit his turnovers, and keep his emotions in check. Halil has two technical fouls on the year, with one against Harvard being a turning point in the loss there on New Year's Eve.

Temple is currently a 6 ½ point favorite in Saturday's game. The Owls have already knocked off Duke, Maryland, and Villanova at home this year, and are playing strong basketball at the moment. A sold-out Liacouras Center will be rocking on Saturday as the city rivals go at it.

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