By Ed Benkin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Two years ago, St. Joseph’s lost its final two games of the regular season and bounced back to win the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. The Hawks are hoping history will repeat itself.

St. Joseph’s had a difficult ending to its season last week with losses to St. Bonaventure and Duquesne. The Hawks finished the season at 24-7 and will be the fourth seed in the upcoming Atlantic 10 Tournament. Phil Martelli has confidence in his squad, but knows they will have to quickly correct the mistakes they made over the past two contests if they want a similar finish to 2014.

“That team was different than this team,” said Martelli. “We were playing differently. Two years ago, it was our offense that was off. This time, our defense is what’s off. We’ve addressed it and we’re willing and wanting to go up there and put on a better performance.”

The Hawks will open tournament play Friday afternoon against George Washington. St. Joseph’s beat the Colonials on the road earlier this season, but Martelli expects to see a desperate opponent. George Washington would likely have to win the conference tournament to punch its ticket to the NCAA Tourney, so Martelli is expecting a tough test against a team with a strong front court.

“Their size is overwhelming,” Martelli said. “This is a team that’s going to be on edge. They’re fighting for their post-season lives. They’re going to come in off of a win. They’re going to have their jitters out. We’re going to have to count on our older guys to pull us through.”

The Hawks are hoping an intense week of practice will correct their mistakes from the past two games. Isaiah Miles is eager to get on the court in Brooklyn and show that the last two games were simply a bump in the road for for his team.

“We’re all anxious to go there,” said Miles. “We’re all anxious to show the world and the A-10 that we’re one of the best teams in the A-10. We just want to prove ourselves. We didn’t play our game the past two games.”

While George Washington will be a difficult opponent, the rest of the Atlantic 10 will feature several squads with impressive NCAA Tournament resumes. The likes of VCU, Dayton, and St. Bonaventure all appear capable of winning the A-10 Tournament, and Martelli believes the lower seeds also have the experience to make a run in Brooklyn.

“It’s a cliche to say they have a chance,” Martelli said. “But every team has really good players. The challenge is whoever you line up with, you better be able to stop their primary options.”

The Hawks insist their focus this weekend will be on their conference tournament instead of bracket projections, but Miles says it’s impossible to ignore the possibility of playing in the NCAA Tournament next week.

“It’s the dream,” said Miles. “It’s that one shining moment. We want to work hard, and the NCAA Tournament is motivation for us playing hard.”