Saint Joseph's-La Salle Preview

On Saturday at noon, Saint Joseph's and La Salle will square off at The Palestra in a game that has Atlantic 10, Big 5, and possible postseason implications. La Salle enters Saturday's contest in sole possession of first place in the A10, at 6-2 in league play and 17-6 overall. The Hawks, on the other hand, are one of three teams resting at 4-4 in conference play.

Saint Joseph's enters Saturday's game at 14-9 on the year.

Saint Joseph's is coming off an impressive 70-60 road win at Richmond on Wednesday. The Hawks had five players in double-digits at Richmond and played one of their better defensive games of the season. For a team that has struggled mightily on the road, the win was a significant one for the Hawks.

La Salle enters Saturday afternoon's contest coming off an 85-72 home win over Charlotte. The Explorers have only lost two of their eight conference games to date. La Salle lost by four at Dayton and six at Temple. The Explorers have quality home wins in conference against both Xavier and La Salle.

La Salle features four players averaging over 30 minutes a game. All four of those players, Ramon Galloway, Earl Pettis, Tyreek Duren, and Sam Mills, are guards. They all average double-digit points per game and combine for 55.5 of La Salle's 75.2 points per game. Duren and Mills also both shoot above 40% from three on the year.

Saint Joseph's has lost back-to-back Saturday games against Big 5 opponents. Two weeks ago, the Hawks were downed by Penn. Then, last Saturday, the Hawks suffered their worst defeat of the season at Temple. What do the Hawks need to do on Saturday to end that streak?

Well, despite the fact that La Salle is in sole possession of first place in the A10 and the fact that the Hawks are 4-9 in their last 13 games, Vegas has the Hawks as a 1.5-point favorite. Part of the reason for that could be the fact that Saturday's game is technically a Hawk home game, even though it is at The Palestra. Also, despite their impressive record, La Salle actually has the second-worst Strength of Schedule in the A10, ahead of only Fordham. The Explorers' SOS of 137 compares to Saint Joseph's SOS of 32. Partially due to the difference in SOS, the Hawks, according to RealtimeRPI, have an RPI of 48, ahead of La Salle at 62.

All of that aside, tomorrow's game is likely determined by which team can dictate style of play and tempo. La Salle's strength is their backcourt. At times, they will run with four guards on the court. On the flip side, the Hawks' strength is often the play of their frontcourt. C.J. Aiken, Ron Roberts, and Halil Kanacevic should have a decided advantage against La Salle.

Saint Joseph's is a better rebounding team than La Salle, but La Salle scores the ball at a clip of roughly four more points per game.

On Wednesday, although they got the win, sophomore guard Langston Galloway really struggled from the field. If the Hawks are going to take down La Salle, they will need their guards to hold their own, and hope that the frontcourt can provide the edge. Galloway played lights-out against Penn two weeks ago at The Palestra, going 6-9 from 3 en route to 32 points. An outing similar to that on Saturday would certainly bode well for the Hawks.

A win tomorrow is of such importance for both teams. La Salle is now the frontrunner in the A10 and would like to stay there. Saint Joseph's, on the other hand, is trying to find its December stride and get back to winning consecutive games. City bragging rights, A10 standings, and Big 5 title aspirations are all on the line Saturday at noon from The Palestra.

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