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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

Big 5 State of mind

Sitting at 4-4 through their first eight games, St. Joe’s is now preparing to enter the most traditional part of their schedule. They play three of their four Big 5 games in the three weeks before Christmas. 

This article will take a look at the team’s most recent matchup with Villanova University as well as their upcoming games against the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and La Salle University.

This past weekend, the Hawks struggled to deal with the prowess of Villanova. The Wildcats were able to dictate the pace and score at will against the Hawks, who did have some success keeping the game close in the first half. Graduate student Collin Gillespie scored 23 to lead the Wildcats, a team that seems poised to challenge for another National Championship. 

As for the Hawks, they struggled to get fifth-year senior Taylor Funk going. The forward is such an integral part of St. Joe’s offense, averaging 17 points per game prior to this one. Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright had the answer, frequently doubling Funk after screens and putting elite defender in junior guard Justin Moore on him. 

Despite the disappointment of the 29 point loss to a rival, it is important to note that this game was definitely a great challenge. The Hawks are an evolving product, and Villanova is a developed one. Expecting the Hawks to enter Finneran Pavilion and beat the sixth-ranked team in the country was probably not a good projection.

On the bright side, the Hawks have three more Big 5 games that are more winnable, beginning with Penn on Dec. 8. Penn had an uneven start to their season, which is to be expected after cancelling its entire 2020-21 season. New York native Jordan Dingle has picked up where he left off two years ago; the senior guard is averaging 20 points per game in the team’s first 11 contests. 

The Quakers are 3-8, but three of those losses have come against nationally ranked competition in Florida State, Arkansas and Villanova. After a brief absence, the team also reinserted senior forward Michael Wang. In the team’s most recent game, a loss to Temple, Wang reminded many why they were so high on him during his first year at Penn. The senior poured in 21 points off the bench, keeping the Quakers competitive in a game where they were outmatched. 

They will certainly pose a threat to the Hawks, but the inconsistencies that have plagued them leads me to believe St. Joe’s will be able to find success.

After facing off with Penn, the Hawks will host Temple at Hagan Arena on Dec. 11. Temple will look to set up a “Big 5 Championship” game with Villanova on Dec. 29, as they have already defeated both Penn and La Salle. 

Sophomore star Khalif Battle was recently ruled out for the season with a fractured foot, so the Owls will be looking to find players to rely on for scoring in the coming weeks. Replacing Battle’s 21.4 PPG got off to a good start in the Penn win, as Damian Dunn stepped up to score 27 points in the team’s first game without Battle. 

Beyond Dunn, the team possesses numerous explosive guards including Jeremiah Williams and Jahlil White. The Owls will look to their young guards to pick them up, and they will be a very tough challenge even without Battle. But, a winnable challenge.

St. Joe’s will not meet La Salle until the new year, but the Explorers are off to an incredibly uneven start this season. They have limped to a 3-4 start, falling to Temple and Villanova by 42 points combined. 

There definitely is room for optimism on La Salle for the remainder of the season, as Louisville transfer Josh Nickelberry continues to improve. Most recently, the guard scored 28 points in a decisive home win against Holy Cross. Nickelberry and sophomore guard Jhamir Brickus form a backcourt that should put the Explorers in position to win some games going forward. If redshirt senior forward Clifton Moore can continue to be a formidable force in the frontcourt, La Salle will be able to give St. Joe’s a very competitive game. 

In a season deprived of many competitive Big 5 contests, there certainly should be some coming down the stretch.

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