Hawks-Billikens Preview

On Wednesday night, Saint Joseph's will take to the road and square off with the Saint Louis Billikens, who are riding a ten-game winning streak and a national ranking for the first time this season. Take a look inside for a breakdown of Wednesday evening's Atlantic 10 showdown.

The Hawks of Saint Joseph's were picked by the Atlantic 10 coaches as the preseason favorites, just edging out Saint Louis. Here we are, months later, and it's the Billikens who have sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10, while the Hawks are fighting for seeding near the middle of the pack.

Saint Louis enters Wednesday's game at 21-5, and an extremely impressive 10-2 in conference play. The Hawks, on the other hand, check in at 15-10 and 6-6 in A10 play.

The Billikens lost back-to-back games to Temple and Rhode Island in the middle of January, and haven't lost since. Saint Joseph's has a Herculean task ahead of themselves Wednesday, on the road, against a team playing as well as any in the nation right now.

In fact, Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli took that previous statement one further. During this week's Atlantic 10 conference call, he had this to say about the Billikens. "The team we're playing Wednesday night is playing as well as any A10 team has ever played. Saint Louis is an absolutely certifiable monster."

The task becomes all the more daunting considering it's on the road. SLU has rolled over several impressive opponents on their home floor this year, including a resounding 76-62 win last week over VCU. They also own a 17-point home win over Butler and a 60-46 throttling of #20 New Mexico on New Year's Eve.

The Billikens have six players averaging over seven points per game this season. Junior forward Dwayne Evans leads the way for Saint Louis, averaging 12 points and nearly 7 rebounds per game. The 6'5 230-pound wing presents all sorts of match-up problems for the Hawks.

Another Billiken who could be primed for a monster outing is 6'8 Aussie senior Cody Ellis. Ellis is a 37% three-point shooter who can get hot from the perimeter. He had six threes in a win over Fordham on February 6th.

If you're a Hawk fan, and attempting to look for a bright spot, and attempting to find a possible way that the Hawks could make this a ballgame, look no further than junior shooting guard Langston Galloway. Galloway has struggled mightily this year, having his worst year to date in his Hawk career. That being said, he erupted for a season-high 26 points, including 6-9 shooting from three, in Saturday's home win over George Washington.

St. Joe's hosted the Billikens a year ago, and lost that contest 72-60. Interestingly enough, a year ago, the loss to SLU dropped the Hawks to 15-10. This year, they enter the game with that record.

The Hawks trailed a year ago by only two at the half, but then were outscored 43-33 in the second, paced by Cody Ellis' 17 second-half points. The Hawks shot less than 40% from the field in that one, and only 4-16 from three. For a different result this year, they will have to improve upon both of those numbers.

Saint Louis opens as 9.5 point favorites in this out. St. Joe's has only four regular-season games remaining: Saint Louis, Fordham, Rhode Island, and Charlotte. At 6-6 in league play, the Hawks have a great challenge ahead of them. The difference between 8-8 in league play and 9-7 could mean a significant difference in seeding for the A10 tournament in Brooklyn. The Hawks are staring down a Billikens squad that has a ten-game winning streak on the line. Breaking that streak won't be easy.

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