PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With one week left in the regular season, four teams have a chance to win the Atlantic 10. Phil Martelli isn’t spending time mapping out tie-breaking scenarios.
Martelli’s Hawks face a huge test on Wednesday night when they face St. Bonaventure in Rochester.
The Hawks and Bonnies are two of the teams in contention for the regular season title, so the winner of Wednesday night’s contest will take a huge step forward for both the conference crown and the top seed in the upcoming A-10 Tournament. Martelli and his players are focusing on a very difficult opponent, and not the myriad of ways teams can clinch the top spot.
“The only thing that we can worry about is ourselves,” said Martelli. “We’re not talking about who else plays in the league or what the result could be. We can only concentrate on our 40 minutes.”
It is easy to understand why the Hawks are keeping their focus on the Bonnies. St. Bonaventure is one of only three teams which has beaten St. Joseph’s over the past 23 games. The Bonnies picked picked up a ten-point win at Hagan Arena and have won eight of their last nine games. St. Bonaventure is also projected to be a bubble team as Selection Sunday draws closer, so a win over the 24-5 Hawks would greatly enhance its NCAA Tournament chances. Hawks Forward DeAndre’ Bembry has plenty of respect for the Bonnies.
“They have a toughness to their team just like we do,” Bembry said. “Their tough-minded. Their coach is hard on them, and they’re good players. They’re a good team and they play well. They’ve got a good system.”
The Bonnies played an outstanding game on Hawk Hill when they beat St. Joseph’s earlier in the season. St. Bonaventure hit 13 three-pointers and also went 14-of-15 form the free throw line. Martelli knows his players must defend better in the rematch if they are to come away victorious.
“That’s the whole key to me,” said Martelli. “We can’t be outscored from the three-point line by ten or eleven baskets. We can’t make that up. We can’t get enough two’s to win the game.”
A road game at St. Bonaventure is never easy for Atlantic 10 teams no matter where the Bonnies are in the standings. Even though this game is in Rochester and not on campus, the Hawks are preparing for a raucous atmosphere. However, Martelli says it is the talent of their opponent which makes a trip to Western New York so difficult.
“It starts with the fact that they have good players,” Martelli said. “The building is not playing against you. The fans are not playing against you. This team is extraordinarily well-coached. Mark Schmidt is one of the best coaches in America and one of the nicest people.”
The Hawks are tied with VCU for first place in the conference. St. Bonaventure and Dayton are both a game behind, so the stakes are high in Wednesday night’s matchup. However, Martelli reminded his players where they would remain in the standings with a victory.
“We’re taking first place with us,” said Martelli. “We want to bring it back on the bus.”