After beginning the 2012-2013 campaign 4-1, Saint Joseph's has lost three of four heading into tonight's contest with Iona. The Hawks enter tonight's action at 5-4, while the Gaels of Iona enter at 6-5.
The Gaels have played three true road games this year, and are 1-2 in those ballgames. The have an overtime win at Georgia, along with losses at Saint Peter's and at La Salle. Along with their win at Georgia, the Gaels own a blowout win over Wake Forest.
The key to tonight's game will, in all likelihood, be tempo. The Gaels are averaging over 81 points per game, which is good enough for 11th nationally. The Hawks, on the other hand, are averaging only 65.7 points per game, which is 220th nationally.
Another issue tonight will be depth, which goes hand-in-hand with tempo. The Gaels, with the recent addition of transfer David Laury, have nine players averaging over 15 minutes a game. On the flip side, the Hawks only have five active players tonight averaging over ten minutes per game. That is a stark and perhaps frightening contrast.
Senior point guard Lamont Jones is the engine that runs the Gaels offense. Jones, who is generously listed at 6-foot, is averaging 22 points and 4 assists per game so far this season. He also gets to the line over 6 times a game, where he is a 90% free throw shooter.
The Gaels received a recent boost, and a significant one at that, with the addition of 6'8 240-pound David Laury. In two games for the Gaels, Laury is averaging 20.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks per contest.
6'4 junior wing Sean Armand is another critical piece for the Gaels, averaging a touch under 19 points per game, to go along with 6.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Armand can knock down shots from three, as he showed against Liberty where he went 7-14 from downtown. The Hawks have had their struggles this year defending the three, and they will be tested tonight by the Gaels.
On the Hawk side of things, the play of senior guard Carl Jones will be critical. Jones was held to only three points last time out in a loss against Fairfield. Jones' play in general has struggled this year. After averaging 17 points per as a sophomore and junior, he is down under 14 a game this year. His free throw shooting has plummeted from 79% to 64%. His field goal percentage has also dropped, from 42% to 38%.
Jones was nursing a groin injury against Fairfield but is expected to play tonight. The Hawks will need him to contribute in order to keep up with Iona's high-octane offense.
St. Joe's will also need to get something from the bench tonight. Daryus Quarles, Isaiah Miles, and Papa Ndao are seeing limited minutes this year, and as a result, their production has been minimal. Against a deep, talented, high-scoring Iona team tonight, it will be interesting to see if Hawk head coach Phil Martelli finally gives the bench minutes.
The Hawks are in desperate need of a win at home tonight against Iona. The early line out of Las Vegas has the Hawks favored by 8. The Hawks were also favored by 10 against Fairfield, a game they dropped at home. Tempo, bench play, and Carl Jones should all play pivotal roles in what is a critical early-season game for the Hawks tonight.