PHILADELPHIA — St. Joseph’s basketball team was looking to make a statement, the kind that can leave a favorable impression of the NCAA tournament committee. Looking to accomplish something for the first time in nearly 48 years, the Hawks instead ran into a defensive buzz saw.
No. 13 St. Louis held St. Joseph’s to six first-half field goals in building a 13-point halftime lead on the way to a 65-49 victory Wednesday night at Hagan Arena. That was a season low in scoring for the Hawks, whose previous low came in a 53-52 win over Denver. The Hawks shot just 1 for 15 from beyond the arc.
St. Joseph’s (15-7 overall, 5-3 Atlantic Ten) was coming off Saturday’s 73-68 win over then-No. 21 Massachusetts.
The last time the Hawks had beaten ranked teams in back-to-back games was March 2 and 7, 1966, when they defeated No. 8 Providence twice, including once in the NCAA tournament.
That’s a place St. Joseph’s aspires to reach for the first time since 2008, and a win over the Billkens, coupled with the UMass victory, would have improved the Hawks’ resume. St. Joe’s faces another A-10 heavyweight when it hosts VCU on Saturday, so this could have been an eventful eight day-period.
Yet St. Louis (21-2, 8-0) ruined any momentum the Hawks hoped to gain. The Billikens entered the game as the A-10’s top team in scoring defense, allowing a measly 59 points per game.
Ronald Roberts Jr. led the Hawks with 18 points. Rob Loe, a 6-foot-11 senior from New Zealand, paced the Billikens with 17 points.
Leading 25-20, the Billikens went on a 10-0 run late in the first half, and with the way their defense was playing, that would be enough.
St. Louis, which visits La Salle on Saturday, isn’t very smooth on the offense end, but the defense keeps the Billkens in every game. The Hawks committed nine first-half turnovers and shot 6 for 22 from the field.
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