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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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A Minute with McCloskey: A one-sided war


The first battle of the “Holy War” took place on Jan. 15, 1921. All-time, the Hawks have fallen to the Villanova University Wildcats in 51 of the 76 meetings. Most recently, the Hawks have posed an eight year losing streak in the famed Holy War battle including this past weekends 78-66 loss to the Wildcats. 

The last time the Hawks won the Holy War was on Dec. 17, 2011 in Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena with a score of 74-58. The 2011 season was the freshman season for guard guard Langston Galloway, who currently plays in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons, and C.J. Aiken who was ranked 98th on the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI) Top 100 list following his senior season at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. 

The Hawks’ inability to overcome the Wildcats for the past eight years does not have an easy answer. Frankly, there is no singular reason. Three disparities have remained over the past four seasons of the Holy War: speed, productivity and height. 

In 2016, the Hawks fell to the Wildcats 88-57. The Hawks tallest player in this game was Jai Williams ’18 at 6’9”. Comparatively, the Wildcats roster had three players standing at 6’9” or taller. Similarly, the 2016-17 Nova team was quick on both sides of the ball, which allowed for the Wildcats to outscore the Hawks with ease. 

2017 marked the largest defeat for the Hawks in the history of the rivalry at 94-53. For this game, the Hawks returned their entire starting lineup and the majority of their bench as well as adding redshirt sophomore forward Taylor Funk and junior forward Anthony Longpre. Yet, the Hawks could not overcome the strength and productivity of the Wildcats’ offense. The 2017-18 roster had six players who currently hold an NBA contract compared to one for the Hawks — Charlie Brown Jr. The Wildcats would also go on to win the National Championship that year.

Last season’s 70-58 loss was expected to be the best chance for the Hawks to defeat the Wildcats since 2011. Prior to the game, it was announced that former Hawks forward Charlie Brown Jr. would not play do to a wrist injury. Although Brown was not in the game, the Hawks fought for the entire 40 minute game, but came up short in the end.

The Hawks have lost to Villanova by a margin of 12 points the last two years. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/ THE HAWK

With the recent history of the Holy War, Saturday’s 78-66 loss to the Wildcats may have been the best matchup in eight years. The Hawks entered the game a 15 point underdog, but the game was expected to be an ugly defeat. Redshirt junior guard Ryan Daly did not let that happen. 

The Hawks managed to remain in Saturday’s contest throughout the entirety of the game and even cut the deficit to just 3-points late in the second half. The difference in this game compared to the past three seasons was the heart and hustle each player should have on the court. 

Freshman guards Chereef Knox and Cameron Brown, along with Daly,  were on the ground multiple times struggling for the possession of loose balls. Daly could also be seen with a face of determination throughout the game regardless of how many times he was hit in the face or knocked to the ground. 

The Hawks played with heart in Saturday’s contest which can not be said of the past three seasons. 

In order to win, the Hawks need more than just heart though. The Hawks shot 0-11 from beyond the arc in the first half of Saturday’s contest, then proceeded to shoot 5-13 from three-point range in the second half leaving them at shooting 20.8% from the three-point line this  game. 

If the Hawks want the Holy War to continue to have relevance to fans, they must break the losing streak. While playing with heart is a way to get fans in the building, speed, productivity and height must become a part of the game as well. 

The Hawks managed to keep pace with Wildcats on Saturday by playing scrappy defense, but they were unable to convert many of their forced turnovers into points. Next season, the Hawks will add 6’10 Anton Jansson to the roster which, in combination with Longpre and a healthy Funk, should allow for the Hawks to match up well against the Wildcats. 

When the Hawks play an all-around game including speed, productivity and a presence in the lane, they will manage to overcome the power and accuracy of the Wildcats. Will this happen next season? Possibly. But by Jansson’s sophomore season, I anticipate a true revival of the Holy War.


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