Forget the man of the hour, how about the man of the night? Ronald Roberts had a career-high 27 points as the Hawks beat the Atlantic-10 leader Dayton, 77-63 on Wednesday.
In a much-needed win, the Hawks fed off the home crowd at a jam-packed Hagan Arena. This was the upbeat, fun basketball SJU fans loved seeing in the first half of the season. According to head coach Phil Martelli, they needed to get back to controlling the game.
One of the things that had been missing for us had been pace of the game. We have not played basketball in a month.
The Hawks came into this game on a three-game losing streak and did not play well in either of those losses. This was the perfect game for St. Joe's to make a statement that they are a dangerous contender in the Atlantic-10.
SJU got off to a rather sluggish start in the first half, shooting just 32 percent but quickly turned that around in the second half, shooting an impressive 70 percent.
Also, Dayton committed 13 turnovers, which led to 13 SJU points.
Part of the success was due to Ronald Roberts. Not only did the sophomore have 27 points but he also was 7-of-9 from the free-throw line, a place that has haunted him throughout the season. He even hit an acrobatic, off-balance three as the shot clock was waning.
Phil Martelli had nothing but praise for the big man after the game.
"Ron starts. He doesn't get his name called. I'm sure that every young kid wants his named called at the beginning of the games so that he can dance or whatever they do when they announce their names, but Ron is an unbelievable listener and really takes it to heart whatever we bring to his attention."
However, the play of the evening came on an SJU in-bounds play where Roberts performed a windmill dunk that practically was a new coming of Moses parting the Red Sea. The jubilation from teammates and fans almost blew the roof off the place.
Roberts is known for his massive dunks, but this one was earth-shattering.
This SJU team, although young, seems to be forming a unique style with each player adding his own special identity.
C.J. Aiken is the elegant swat team officer, Ronald Roberts is the new coming of Chocolate Thunder, Carl Jones is the drum major, Halil Kanacevic is the better-playing and better-looking form of Ilya Bryzgalov and Daryus Quarles is the sharp-shooting Beetlejuice.
Now, if they can keep this consistent, fast, fun, fierce style of play up, "No one, and I mean no one, is going to come into their house and push them around."
But for Phil Martelli, it's those who win on the road in the Atlantic-10 who pose the real threats.
Everybody is really good at home, and the separation is how good are you on the road, and we'll find out. This is a magnificent league and we want to be in the conversation for being, not the best team, but being one of the better teams. We've given one away at home so we have to get that back on the road somewhere.
That game they "gave away" was against Charlotte, a team their next opponent, Temple, just beat on Charlotte's court.
The Hawks will play Temple on Saturday, Jan. 28 at the Liacouras Center. Maybe this will be the game the Hawks can "get back."
Hopefully SJU can play like they did against Dayton because Temple will be a tough opponent, especially in their building. And if Ronald Roberts continues his dominant play, no one will be able to stop him.
Eddie Ravert is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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