The task facing Saint Joseph's last night was to try and shake Saint Louis long enough to walk away with a win. They squirmed, but couldn't get out of the chair and lost, 72-60.
For the first 10 minutes of the game, the Hawks couldn't throw it in the Schuylkill. When they got field-goal attempts, they bricked them. On five straight possessions, they turned it over. It was ugly.
But then Langston Galloway hit a jumper and Tay Jones made a layup. It was an 8:30 p.m. start, but the Hawks didn't show up until 10 of 9. When they finally did, they made a game of it . . . at least for a while.
"The start of the game kind of came back and bit us," said St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli. "But there were four occasions when the score was tied and they came back and scored on their next possession. We have to look and see where the breakdowns were."
Galloway led the Hawks with 15 points, Ronald Roberts added 14 and Carl Jones had 13. Halil Kanacevic had 10 rebounds before fouling out.
"We knew what they were going to do, but we just weren't mentally prepared for it," Galloway said. "We, as players, just have to start out the next game mentally more prepared."
St. Joe's overcame the slow start and trailed by just two at the half. But Saint Louis started hitting from the outside and pulled away late. A pair of three- pointers by Billikens sniper Cody Ellis and another by point guard Kwamain Mitchell gave SLU a 52-40 lead, its largest advantage since opening the game, 12-0.
Ellis hit all five of his second-half threes and led all scorers with 20.
"Our scouting report said to make him bounce the ball and he didn't have many dribbles tonight," Martelli said. "A guy like that tees it up. He teed it up 2 years ago as a freshman [with 13 points on 3-for-7 threes] and he did the same thing tonight."
The loss was just their second at home and dropped the Hawks to 15-10, 5-5 in the Atlantic 10. St. Joe's has another steep challenge on Saturday when UMass visits Hagan Arena. The Minutemen are tied with St. Loo and Xavier for second in the conference, a half-game behind Temple.
With six A-10 games remaining, the loss put a serious crimp in St. Joe's chances to finish in the top four and grab a first-round bye in the conference tournament. It's worth remembering that the Hawks had just 11 wins in each of the last two seasons. That a bye was even in the conversation is laudable.
"We told our players it was a big game. This time, we failed," Martelli said bluntly. "It's the same [Hawks] team that passed the 'big-game' test twice last week [with wins over Richmond and La Salle]. We have another 'big game' on Saturday."
Forward C.J. Aiken failed to register a blocked shot for the first time all season, and just the second time in his career. He remains tied at 212 with Tony Costner for third place in school history. Only Rodney Blake (419) and Dwayne Jones (232) have more . . . Saint Louis leads the series with St. Joe's, 6-2, and has won all four meetings played in Philadelphia . . . There are no players on the Billikens' roster from Missouri . . . The Hawks, who are at their best in transition, had zero fastbreak points.