By Ed Benkin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A two-game losing streak has put St. Joseph’s NCAA Tournament hopes in doubt, but the Hawks are more worried about the task at hand.
Phil Martelli’s squad had won 17 out of 20 games before back-to-back losses to George Washington and LaSalle last week, and the Hawks head coach is hoping his players can put their last two games behind them before heading for Brooklyn.
“We talked about it,” said Martelli. “I gave them my feelings on everything. We need to get this taste out of our mouths. We haven’t had this taste for over 90 days of back-to-back losses. We’re the ones who fixed it when we were 4-4, and we’ll fix it now that we’re 21-9.”
The fourth-seeded Hawks will play their first game on Friday at 2:30 against an opponent yet to be determined. The winner of Wednesday night’s George Mason-Fordham game will take on Dayton Thursday, with the winner advancing to face the Hawks. While St. Joseph’s will have less than 24 hours to prepare for their opponent, Forward Halil Kanacevic says it won’t matter who the Hawks play if they play to the best of their abilities.
“We’re just worried about us right now,” Kanacevic said. “We’ll see who we’ll play, but we’ll try to get us right as an offense and defense and play better basketball.”
Many believe Dayton will be the Hawks’ opponent on Friday afternoon. While the tournament appears to be wide open, Martelli noted the Flyers are playing their best basketball of the season.
“I’ve gone through the bracket,” said Martelli. “You only have to take into account one thing. The fifth-place team in this tournament is coming in 9-1. They’re the hottest team in the league right now. It’s Dayton.”
The Hawks will worry about NCAA Tournament scenarios on Sunday night. For seniors such as Langston Galloway, this week represents their last chance to win an Atlantic 10 title. Galloway is well aware that all of the teams in the conference will enter the tournament with a clean slate.
“We’re 0-0 now,” Galloway said. “Nothing in the regular season matters. When the tournament starts, everybody wants to beat you. It’s one game and and move on. That’s what we try to do is survive and advance.”