By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Palestra should be rocking on Saturday afternoon as the La Salle Explorers and St. Joe’s Hawks battle.

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Both teams are coming off nice wins last time out on Wednesday.  The Explorers improved to 17-6 with a victory at St. Bonaventure in overtime, 69-66.

“We were nowhere near 100% against a good team in a hostile environment in a tight situation and came out with the win,” La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini tells KYW Newsradio.  “So I just am thrilled with the toughness and mental characteristics that our team showed.”

St. Joe’s beat Richmond 61-55 to raise their record to 14-9.  The Hawks used a press on defense in the second half to overcome a nine-point halftime deficit in that one.

“We had some success with it,” St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli said after the game. “We dabbled with this four or five days ago in practice for something different.  We have to have something different.”

The Explorers are the only team without a loss in City Series action this season, as they’ve defeated Villanova and Penn so far.  The Hawks are 2-1 in the Big 5, with wins over Temple and Penn to their credit and the loss coming to Villanova.

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“It’s a great match-up (vs. St. Joe’s),” Giannini says. They have outstanding players and they pose a lot of challenges for us.  They’re big, they have great guards, they’re experienced and it should just be a great game and a great challenge.”

This game is also critical in the Atlantic 10 race.  The Explorers are 7-3 in the highly-competitive conference, that has them tied for third place.  St. Joe’s is 5-5, that has them in a dead heat for 9th, but it is only a three game difference from 1st to 10th.

Martelli also thinks this is game will be a great challenge for his team.

“Work to do,” Martelli says. “Now they get a chance Saturday to play a Philadelphia game at the best building in college basketball.  So what more can you ask for?”

La Salle and St. Joe’s will tip-off at 1:00pm on Saturday afternoon.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.

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