Saint Joseph’s came into Wednesday’s game riding a hot streak and hoping to beat nationally ranked teams in back-to-back games for the first time in 48 years.
Saint Louis and its smothering defense quickly put those thoughts to bed.
One of the nation’s best defensive teams, the Billikens held the Hawks to 23 points below their season average in a 65-49 Atlantic 10 rout at Hagan Arena.
No. 13 Saint Louis (21-2 overall, 8-0 Atlantic 10) set a program record with its 15th straight win and improved to 8-0 on the road.
The Hawks – who beat No. 21 UMass on Saturday for their 11th win in their last 13 games – dropped to 15-7 overall and 5-3 in the A-10, three games back of first-place Saint Louis.
Big men on campus
Saint Louis center Rob Loe led the Billikens with 17 points, including five straight late in the second half to squash all thoughts of a St. Joe’s comeback. Jordair Jett added 10 points and seven assists for the Billikens.
St. Joe’s forward Ronald Roberts led all scorers with 19 and nine rebounds. Halil Kanacevic had nine points and nine rebounds but nobody else hit double figures for the Hawks, even though they pretty much went with a six-man rotation all game.
Inside the box score
· St. Joe’s shot just 18 for 30 from the free-throw line with many of the misses coming as the Hawks tried to mount a comeback early in the second half.
· The Hawks shot 1 for 15 from three-point range and 15 for 47 from the field.
· St. Joe’s finished with 17 turnovers to just five assists.
St. Joe’s scored the first five points and the game was close for most of the first half – until the Billikens went on a 13-1 run to open up a comfortable 35-22 lead at halftime.
St. Joe’s shot just 27.3 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from three-point range while making just six total field goals.
The Hawks also committed nine first-half turnovers against the Billikens’ vaunted defense which game into Saturday’s game ranked eighth nationally in scoring defense.
Before the game, Kanacevic received a ball for scoring 1,000 career points. He hit the plateau in last Wednesday’s last-second win at Dayton.
The St. Joe’s senior also has over 900 rebounds in his college career, which includes his freshman season at Hofstra.
St. Joe’s plays the final game of its tough three-game homestand when it hosts VCU on Saturday at 8 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on the CBS Sports Network.
Saint Louis stays in Philly to take on La Salle at Tom Gola Arena on Saturday at 5 p.m.