Saint Joseph's-Charlotte preview

On Tuesday evening, Saint Joseph's and Charlotte will square off in an opening-round contest of the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Hawks, as the 5-seed, host the 12th-seeded Charlotte 49ers, with both teams looking for a win to advance to Atlantic City for the conference quarterfinals.

Last Wednesday, the Hawks fell in double-overtime in Olean to Saint Bonaventure. As a result, Saint Joseph's lost out on a top-four finish in conference and instead, with a 9-7 conference record, earned the 5-seed in the A10 tournament. Charlotte finished the regular season at 5-11 in conference play.

One of those five wins, however, for the 49ers came at the expense of the Hawks at Hagan Arena. On January 7th, Charlotte marched into Hagan Arena and took down the Hawks 57-52 in one of Saint Joseph's ugliest games of the season.

A number of statistics from that game are alarming. First, the Hawks shot just 2-21 from three-point land, and despite that, only lost the game by five points. Two more made threes and the Hawks could have easily found themselves with an additional conference win.

In that January loss, the Hawks only shot 4-7 from the free throw line, compared to 13-22 for the 49ers. Second-team all-conference sophomore guard Langston Galloway did not attempt a single free throw in the loss, nor did recently crowned Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year C.J. Aiken.

Defensively, the Hawks did a tremendous job on Charlotte, holding them to under 34% shooting from the field. Junior forward Chris Braswell, who averages almost 16 points per game, was held to 2-11 shooting and nine points.

Led by guard Pierria Henry, Charlotte turned the Hawks over an astounding 13 times and forced the Hawks into 15 turnovers. On the flip side, Charlotte only turned the ball over nine times.

In January, the Hawks dug themselves an early double-digit deficit and trailed Charlotte 31-24 at the half. The Hawks asserted themselves mid-way through the second half and actually held a 48-43 lead just over six minutes to go, and a 50-45 lead with just over four minutes to go. Over the game's final 6:36, Saint Joseph's was outscored 14-4, with the Hawks not netting a single field goal during that stretch.

For Saint Joseph's to advance to the quarterfinals in Atlantic City, where they would play Saint Bonaventure once again, they need better guard play on Wednesday. Sophomore Langston Galloway was held to just six points the last times these teams squared off.

Saint Joseph's has struggled at times this year when Hagan Arena has been under capacity. The Hawks, in front of a student section that was probably only about 70% full, fell to Richmond, a team they defeated soundly on the road. This is worth noting since students are on Spring Break this week and Hagan is likely to be much quieter than it was for, say, the Creighton, Villanova, and Temple games.

A win on Wednesday would be the Hawks' 20th this year, an accomplishment coming off of consecutive 20-loss seasons. A win would also give the Hawks a chance to try to play themselves back on the proverbial tournament bubble. Even with a loss to Charlotte, the Hawks are likely an NIT-bound team this postseason. A win would keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.

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