Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - A pivotal showdown in the Atlantic 10 Conference takes place on Wednesday night, as the 13th-ranked Saint Louis Billikens come calling on the Saint Joseph's Hawks.
Saint Louis has enjoyed a tremendous run through the first few months of the season, going an impressive 20-2, which includes a perfect 7-0 mark in conference play. The Billikens' two losses came against formidable foes in Wisconsin and Wichita State back in late November and early December, and since then the team has won 14 straight games. SLU's most recent triumph came in an 87-81 overtime affair at home against George Mason. The Bills are 7-0 in true road games this season.
Saint Joseph's has been rock solid of late, winning six of its last seven to streak out to a 15-6 overall record, which includes a 5-2 league ledger. The Hawks, who are seeking their ninth home win in 11 chances this season, upset previously ranked Massachusetts in their most recent outing, 73-68. The road doesn't get any easier for SJU from here, as next up is another home game against VCU this Saturday.
After losing the first two encounters in the series, Saint Louis has beaten Saint Joseph's in each of the last seven.
Saint Louis continues to be one of the best defensive teams in the country, as it yields just 59.0 ppg, with foes shooting a mere 39.0 percent from the floor, which includes a 28.5 percent showing from 3-point range. George Mason was allowed to stretch the court a bit in its recent visit to Chaifetz Arena, as the Billikens surrendered 68 points in regulation and another 13 in overtime, but still managed to prevail thanks to a near-perfect showing in the extra session from the field (4-of-5). Rob Loe led five players in double figures, netting 23 points. SLU won the game at the free-throw line, as it went an astounding 23-of-25 there compared to a 6-of-7 effort by the Patriots.
Loe's effort upped his season scoring average to 9.8 ppg, which has him third on the team behind Jordair Jett (12.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.8 apg) and Dwayne Evans (14.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg). As a collective unit, the Billikens are putting up 71.5 ppg, while logging favorable margins in both rebounding (+3.3) and turnovers (+3.0).
Despite winning significantly more games than it has lost, Saint Joseph's is averaging less than four points more than it permits (72.2 to 68.7 ppg). The team boasts a starting five that nets double figures on a regular basis, led by Langston Galloway and his 16.7 ppg. Ronald Roberts (14.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 20 blocks) and Halil Kanacevic (11.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 26 blocks) have produced at both ends of the court, and they have been instrumental in helping the Hawks log a +4.7 rebounding differential. SJU is guilty of nearly 13 turnovers per outing, while goading the opposition into 10.5 tpg.
Saint Joseph's was outshot in its recent clash with UMass (.491 to .412), but used a 25-12 edge in points from the free-throw line, and took advantage of 15 Minutemen miscues. Kanacevic hit for 18 points and Roberts added 17 to pace the Hawks in the victory. DeAndre' Bembry and Chris Wilson chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively.