BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (CBS) — The 2011-2012 college basketball season gets underway tonight for St. Joe’s, as the Hawks travel down to Western Kentucky to run with the Hilltoppers.

Most of the Hawks’ 2010-2011 season was one to forget, as they went 9-21 in the regular season.

But one of those nine wins came in the regular season finale against Charlotte (71-70), and then the Hawks put together a run in the A-10 Tournament, upsetting George Washington (71-59 in OT) and Duquesne (93-90 in OT) before being eliminated by Dayton in the semifinals 64-61.

St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli (below right) is hopeful that the upward trend at the end of last season can serve his team well as they begin this season.

martelli phil Basketball: St. Joes Opens Season at Western Kentucky Tonight

(Phil Martelli. Photo provided)

“At the end of the year, we realized finally, collectively and individually, that we could play on this level,” he tells KYW Newsradio,  “what it would take to play on this level, the mistakes that we had to eliminate, whether they were mistakes off the court, whether they were mistakes in the locker room, whether they were mistakes within the 40 minutes of the game.”

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As for this edition of the Hawks, Martelli says he is looking for all precincts to contribute.

“We have ten scholarship players, so I’m really leaning on all of them.  Obviously a lot of attention has been given to our  back court, Carl ‘Tay’ Jones and Langston Galloway coming into the season, averaging 29 (points) a game together last year.  Does that go up? Do they play better basketball? And even if their numbers go down, do they play better basketball?  That’s going to be a big deal.

“And I think everybody that loves basketball is going to enjoy watching (forward) Halil Kanacevic play.   He is an old school, front court guy.  He has multiple skills.  He’s (had) a year off, he played a year at Hofstra, made the All-CAA Rookie Team.  And now we are expecting big things both on the court and from a leadership role from Halil.”

As for this season opener, Martelli says his team will have to play well against a Western Kentucky team that went 16-16 a season ago.

“They play with a lot of energy.  They forced 27 turnovers in their exhibition game.  We have to be alert for the ball being driven at us, they shot 34 foul shots in their exhibition game.  And we have to get the first game jitters out.”

Last year these two teams also opened the season against each other with the Hilltoppers hammering the Hawks, 98-70, at Hagan Arena.

Tipoff tonight at the E.A. Diddle Arena is set for 8:00pm.

Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060

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