If the 2004-05 men’s basketball season were a sports movie, the montage would have to begin right about now.
With four games remaining, the Owls (13-10, 9-3) likely have to win the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament to qualify for their first NCAA Tournament appearance in four years. Like the Hickory Huskers in Hoosiers, they need to embark on a streak of inspired play, minus the short shorts and background music.
Last season, Xavier won nine of its last ten games and rode that momentum to the A-10 Championship. As this season wanes, the Owls have won two straight for the fifth time this season and can extend their winning streak to a season-high three games with a win over A-10 East Division leader Saint Joseph’s (14-9, 11-1) tonight.
The Owls, coming off a 59-53 victory at Richmond, went into a game against the Hawks two weeks ago in a similar situation. Having beaten Dayton the game before, the Owls were unable to keep up with St. Joe’s shooters Pat Carroll and Chet Stachitas in a 69-57 loss. After that game, junior guard Mardy Collins said the Owls cannot continue their on-again, off-again play.
“It’s tough. Some games we play good, then come back and look like we’ve never played basketball before,” Collins said. “We have to be more consistent.”
Collins has struggled with consistency lately himself. He scored 23 points and 29 points against St. Joe’s and Duquesne, respectively, but scored just 7 and 15 against Dayton and Richmond. Luckily for Collins, the Owls won the latter two games.
STILL ON TOP
Rumors of St. Joe’s demise before this season were greatly exaggerated. Despite the loss of consensus Player of the Year Jameer Nelson and all-conference selection Delonte West, the Hawks lead the A-10 East by two games and a 58-54 loss at Dayton is the only blemish on their conference record.
Carroll averages 16.9 points per game and his .449 percentage from three-point territory is higher than his overall field goal percentage of .428. Junior guard Dwayne Lee averages 5.4 assists per game and forward Dwayne Jones leads the A-10 in rebounding with 11.3 per game.
At this point, Temple has faced every A-10 team but La Salle. St. Joe’s has faced every team but George Washington.
Given that the Owls and Hawks share all the same conference foes but those two this season, the difference in schedule difficulty is striking. The Hawks’ A-10 opponents have a combined win percentage of .393, while the Owls’ opponents’ win percentage is a more respectable .440.
The Hawks visit the Colonials next Tuesday.
On Saturday, Collins had his first game with six assists or more since Jan. 15, when he handed out 11 at Maryland… Junior forward Antywane Robinson leads the Owls in free throw percentage. He shoots .759 from the charity stripe… Sophomore forward Dion Dacons has a better field-goal percentage (.607) than free throw percentage (.400).
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.