Rhode Island should provide challenge to Hawks

St. Joe's head coach Phil Martelli yells instructions to his offense in the second half. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

Almost every coach praises the upcoming opponent regardless of its record. Yet when St. Joseph’s plays host to Rhode Island in the final regular season home game on Wednesday, the Rams should draw praise despite being just 3-11 in the Atlantic-10.

Whether C.J. Aiken (back, wrist) plays or not, the Hawks could have their hands full with Danny Hurley’s Rams.

Rhode Island is playing its third straight Philadelphia team and if the first two games are any indication, the Hawks will be in for a competitive evening.

Rhode Island lost to visiting La Salle 72-65 and then fell at Temple, 76-70 on Saturday.

“We do scouting in five-game segments and in their last five games they are 2-3 and led at halftime each of those games,” St. Jospeh’s coach Phil Martelli said.

And if anybody forgot, one of the three A-10 wins was an 82-80 overtime victory at current A-10 leader St. Louis.

Rhode Island is guided by first-year coach Dan Hurley, son of legendary St. Anthony (NJ) high school coach Bob Hurley. Dan Hurley was the coach the previous two seasons at Wagner and one feels that in time, he will make a major impact at Rhode Island.

“Danny Hurley coaches them to fight at every possession and that is what you get on the defensive end of the floor,” Martelli said. “Normal players would be fooled by the record and be lethargic, but if we are lethargic, we will be smacked right in the throat.”

The Hawks must contain 6-foot-2 junior Xavier Munford, who had 30 points against Temple and is second in the A-10 in scoring (17.8 ppg.).

Of course, the Rams are 3-11 for a reason. They are last in the A-10 in scoring offense (62.1 ppg.)

With the way Rhode Island grinds on defense, it shouldn’t be an easy night for the Hawks.

Couple that with the fact that Aiken may not play and is expected to be a game-time decision, and it makes the challenge more difficult (but far from impossible) for the Hawks.

Aiken didn’t practice Monday and Martelli said even before practice that he wasn’t moving well. We’ll see.

Either way, it should be a challenging game for the Hawks, and one that looks much tougher on the court than it does on paper.