The "most played rivalry" in Big 5 history is set to tip off for the 153rd time on Saturday afternoon when the St. Joseph's Hawks travel to North Philadelphia to take on the Temple Owls. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. from the inside the sold-out Apollo on Broad (The Comcast Network, 1210 AM).
This is the first meeting between the sides since the Temple student section held a mock funeral for the Hawk last season. Though the ceremony was pretty clever (and remarkably well-executed), it only seemed to spark a renewal in the St. Joseph's program, jump-starting the Hawks on a 17-11 run since that afternoon (Feb 20, 2011). Really, the steak was even more impressive (14-6) before the team lost five of its last eight.
And so, here we are to catch you up on both the Owls and Hawks heading into Saturday's A10 matchup. All the relevant news and notes (including C.J. Aiken in short-shorts!) after the jump…
How They Got Here
As mentioned above, St. Joseph's (13-8, 3-3) has lost five of its last eight and has struggled since forfeiting a five game win streak to Harvard on Dec. 31. That said, after dropping four of five, the Hawks came away with a huge 77-63 home win against the Dayton Flyers on Wednesday night. The Flyers were 14-5 to that point and 4-1 in conference, having beaten both Temple and La Salle within the month of the January.
Temple (14-5, 3-2), meanwhile, is on a three game win streak since taking an absolute pounding on the road at Richmond on Jan. 14. Since that time, the Owls won a close contest against La Salle, picked up their second victory against the ACC this season in their win over Maryland and claimed victory at Charlotte's Halton Arena for the first time in the program's history. The team has also welcomed senior Micheal Eric back into the lineup, after the 6-10 center missed a full eight weeks with an injury to his patella.
Hot 'n' Cold
Saint Joseph's junior guard Carl Jones was absent for the team's Jan. 14 loss to the Xaiver Musketeers and has struggled with his shot as of late. Jones, who shot exactly 50% from the floor for the first month of the season, has gone a less than stellar 11-41 over his last four games (27%). Still the team's leading scorer at 16.7 points per game, Jones could figure a difficult cover for the Owls, who struggle with small guards.
For Temple, junior guard Khalif Wyatt -- last year's A10 Sixth Man of the Year who was promoted to the starting lineup due to the absence of medical redshirt Scootie Randall -- has scored 20 or more points in five of his last seven games. He comes into Saturday's contest shooting 41% from behind the three point line and a career best 48% from the field. He trails only senior guard Ramone Moore (17.2 ppg) for the team lead in scoring at 16.3 points per game.
Battle of the Bigs
Though the talent of each team's respective backcourt (Jones and Galloway v. Wyatt, Fernandez and Moore) is well-documented, the matchups under the basket are not to be overlooked.
Temple has played small for the majority of the year, placing the 6-9 but paper-thin Anthony Lee as undersized center beside the 6-6 Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson as an undersized power forward.
The Hawks, on the other hand, feature three bigs who all see substantial minutes in C.J Aiken, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic. Aiken (who is second in the nation in blocked shots with 4.3 per game) and Roberts (who was apparently born to dunk a basketball) can both jump out of the building, presenting almost constant alley-oop possibilities for any guard with his head up. Add to that Kanacevic, who presents a very difficult cover as a 6-8 forward with skills both down low and on the perimeter, and Temple is going to have its hands full.
The key to the game could be the contributions of Eric, who has played only 24 of a possible 80 minutes since his return. On the floor for just seven minutes against Maryland, he was able to take on another 10 at Charlotte for 17 total on Wednesday night. Seeing another increase of 10 -- from 17 to 27 -- is probably wishful thinking, but solid contributions for anywhere from 20-25 minutes could really prove valuable for the Owls.
Without an inside presence, Temple may be forced to have its veteran backcourt and sharpshooting sophomore Aaron Brown launch jumpers from the perimeter. As a team, Temple is shooting 39.4% from three, good enough 23rd in the nation and second overall in the A10.
We're Going Streaking
Temple has won its last nine in a row over Saint Joseph's. The Hawks last win in the series came way back in 2008 when Pat Calathes hit a late three to upend Temple at the Liacouras Center. The Owls would go on to win that season's rematch at the Palestra shortly thereafter, before ultimately defeating the Hawks in the rubber match for the 2008 Atlantic 10 Championship.
Since that time, St. Joe's has struggled on and off the floor, losing both games and recruits over three forgettable seasons. The rivalry had become so temporarily lopsided that the Temple students went so far as to host this memorable funeral for the Hawk last season:
Unamused, Martelli was quick to remind reporters after the game just how cyclical these matters can be. Prior to the Owls ripping off nine in a row, the Hawks had actually taken 11 of the last 12, dating back to the 2002-03 season.
With SJU once more on the rise, Saturday should finally prove an even matchup.
Is This the Big 5 Game?
No, that will be played on Feb. 25 at the SJU Fieldhouse. Current Big 5 standings and remaining schedule listed below:
Saint Joseph's 1-1
La Salle 1-1
Sat. Feb. 4 -- La Salle vs. St Joseph's (The Palestra)
Wed. Feb. 22 -- Temple at La Salle (The Gola)
Sat. Feb. 25 -- Temple at St. Joseph's (The Fieldhouse)
So This Video Showed up Yesterday
Apparently the folks over at Yahoo! Sports have their own version of a hidden camera show called "BlindSided." While we don't know exactly when this prank took place, given the details mentioned in the film ("Saturday," "rivalry game," "retro night"), it's possible that it could have been this week, with the Temple game as the primary motivation/selling point. Honestly, C.J. Aiken wearing these for 40 minutes would just…
Coaches versus Cancer
Members of both coaching staffs will be donning "suits and sneakers" tomorrow in support of the American Cancer Society. Learn more here.
Relevant Numbers to Consider if You're into That Sort of Thing
The online oddsmakers at VegasInsider have Temple favored by 6.5 as of 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The over/under is listed at 141.5 total (down 1.5 from Friday night).
Series: Temple leads 87-65
At Temple: Temple leads 45-18
At Liacouras Center: Temple leads 8-6
Dunphy vs. Saint Joseph's: 15-16 (9-4 with Temple)
Martelli vs. Temple: 16-22
Streak: Temple has won last nine in a row
Lasting Meeting: Temple defeated St. Joe's 66-52 on Feb. 20, 2011 at the Liacouras Center. See recap here.
Most Recent Turning Point in the Series
And we'll see you postgame.