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Saint Joseph's fails to solve stifling Saint Louis defense

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On Wednesday evening, Saint Joseph's tried to beat a ranked opponent in back-to-back games for the first time since Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States.

St. Joe's fans will be forced to wait a bit longer for that statistic to change.

Saint Louis put on a defensive clinic, holding the Hawks to their lowest scoring total of the season as the Billikens came away with a convincing 65-49 win at Hagan Arena, improving to 9-0 on the road this season. Saint Louis has won their last eight meetings against Saint Joseph's.

Early on it was Saint Joseph's (15-7, 5-3 Atlantic 10) who pushed the tempo as Chris Wilson drew fouls on two drives to the basket within the opening two minutes as the Hawks took an early 5-0 lead.

Saint Louis (21-2, 8-0 A-10) seized control of the game moments later as they went on a 14-2 run to take a 14-7 lead on the strength of Rob Loe's second three-pointer in quick succession.

While the Hawks would stay close for most of the half, eventually closing the gap to a single point, the Hawks would never grab hold of the lead again.

Saint Louis ratcheted their stingy defense up a notch during a stretch of over seven minutes where they held Saint Joseph's without a made field goal as the Billikens extended their lead to double-digits, with a Dwayne Evans layup giving Saint Louis a 35-20 lead two minutes before halftime.

The Billikens success in the first half was made even more impressive by the fact that the Billikens played the final seven minutes of the first half without senior leaders Jordair Jett or Loe on the court due to foul trouble. However, Saint Louis still managed to extend their lead further, exemplifying the quality depth their roster possesses.

Saint Louis led Saint Joseph's 35-22 at halftime, leading Hawks coach Phil Martelli to question his team's desire at halftime.

"We’re playing tentative and we’re the home team,” Martelli aggravatingly noted, before adding, "We needed to make better decisions, we can’t be afraid to have the basketball and we were afraid to have the basketball.”

Saint Joseph's certainly came out a more assertive team early in the second half, as Ronald Roberts scored on the inside several times as the Hawks worked their way within single-digits on multiple occasions.

However, turnovers and missed free throws helped shutter any momentum the Hawks would try to create. Saint Joseph's would cut the lead down to seven points at one point, but never got closer than that in the second half.

A 12-3 run from Saint Louis over a three-minute stretch gave the Billikens a 61-43 advantage with 4:03 to play, putting the outcome beyond doubt.

It was a tremendously balanced scoring effort from Saint Louis, as all nine players who saw action scored for the Billikens, led by Loe with 17 points while Jett added 10 points along with 7 assists.

Saint Joseph's only made one of their 15 three-point attempts as the Hawks only double-figure scorer in the game was Roberts who led all scorers with 19 points while corralling 9 rebounds.

St. Joe's will look to get back to winning ways on Saturday evening as they face VCU in the final game of a crucial three-game homestand. Tip-off from Hagan Arena is scheduled for 8 p.m. and the game is slated for national television coverage on the CBS Sports Network.

VCU currently sits in second place in the Atlantic 10 with a 6-1 record in conference play. The Rams won both meetings with Saint Joseph's last year although both games were close.

The Hawks let a late lead slip away in the regular season contest between the teams before VCU came away with an overtime victory.

In March, the two teams met in the Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals, with VCU coming away with a narrow victory over a pesky Hawks team.

Will the third time perhaps be the charm for St. Joe's against the Rams in the Atlantic 10? The Hawks will need it to be if they want to keep their name in the NCAA Tournament conversation.

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