The ‘Toothless Wonder’ leads St. Joe’s to an OT win

Leave a comment

BROOKLYN – With five minutes left in the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Friday night, St. Joseph’s was down 63-57 to No. 20 Notre Dame when Langston Galloway went diving for a loose ball near the sideline. A member of the Fighting Irish landed on the back of his head as he was sprawled out on the floor, driving his face into the ground with enough force that it knocked out one of Galloway’s front teeth.

The game went to a timeout as Galloway laid on the floor. He was helped off with a towel over his face to stop the bleeding.

There were exactly five minutes left on the clock when he was taken out.

Just 23 seconds later, after Ronald Roberts made one of two free throws, Galloway was back on the floor, providing the Hawks with the spark they needed to make an 8-0 run to close out regulation and tie the game at 66. And Galloway not only scored four of the points in that run, he hit the game-tying bucket, a reverse lay-up off of a baseline drive, while providing the defensive effort that helped hold Notre Dame’s dynamic back court silent over the final four minutes of the game.

“Langston just worked on every single possession tonight defensively,” head coach Phil Martelli said after the game. The Irish didn’t get their first points in overtime until there was just 1:09 left, and at that point, St. Joe’s run had reached 13-0 over an eight minute stretch. They would go on to win 79-70.

The irony of it all?

Langston Galloway actually had an 0ff-night. In addition to losing a tooth, he finished with just 13 points and shot 5-13 from the floor. And while those are pretty good numbers, they aren’t when you consider that Galloway averaged 15.5 points last season while shooting 46.6% from beyond the arc and that the Hawks were playing without their leading scorer from last season, as Carl Jones won’t finish his suspension until tomorrow.

The key, however, was that Galloway played his best at the most important time, something that the Hawks weren’t known for last season. Of the 14 games they lost last year, they were winning in the second half in 11 of them. The only games they lost by double-digits came at Xavier, at Temple and at home against St. Louis. Talent wasn’t the issue for this group last year. Finishing was.

“We’ve been harping with the team about finishing possessions,” Martelli said. “Scores and stops. It’s not spurts in games like that. It’s do you score and do you stop. Our defense got better as the game got longer.”

One great sign for the Hawks is the ability of their big and athletic front court to defend a team that plays with three guards and a forward that spends the majority of his time on the perimeter. The versatility of that group — Ronald Roberts, CJ Aiken and Halil Kanocevic — is astounding, really.

Roberts, who finished with 21 points and 16 boards, was guarding Patrick Connaughton, who is a three-point sniper through and through. Kanocevic had 15 points, eight boards, three steals and three blocks while handing out a team high six assists and defending center Jack Cooley. Aiken was credited with three blocks — a number Martelli deemed too low by asking if the official scorekeeper was “a union worker? Did he have to be home by midnight?” — and probably had three more while helping keep the floor spread with his ability to shoot the three.

“We had to say ‘Ron, you have to be a perimeter defender,'” Martelli said. “We’re going this way. We’ll work the kinks out as we go with these three big guys. They’re three of our five best players.”

The play of Chris Wilson has to be noted as well. Filling in for Jones, Wilson finished with 19 points, three assists and just a single turnover, which has to be comforting for Martelli given that he had five players spend more than 40 minutes on the floor.

And while the cohesion of the Hawk’s front court and the emergence of Wilson is important, it would have all been moot if St. Joe’s had lost to Notre Dame.

“Last year we would have folded and lost that game,” Galloway said. “This year we came back and we won. It’s definitely big for our confidence, knowing that we have to finish this year, knowing that we have to step up to the plate every game. We might go through adversity every game, and that’s what we did, we fought through adversity and won.”

A win isn’t the only thing that Galloway took out of this game, however. He’s also got a memento to commemorate the win.

“I have the tooth,” he said. “They tried to put it back in, but it hurt to much.”

Are you going to start wearing a mouthguard now?

“Definitely. Every game.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

UMBC becomes first No. 16 seed to beat No. 1 seed in beatdown of Virginia

Getty Images

UMBC made sports history on Friday night by becoming the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The America East champions pulled off a shocking 74-54 upset over No. 1 seed Virginia in the South Region.

The Retrievers (25-10) not only made history by beating a No. 1 seed — they also knocked off the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament in dominating fashion. Tied at the half, UMBC jumped out to a double-digit lead and maintained its dominance throughout the second half by consistently knocking down three-pointers and keeping the pressure on.

Senior guard Jairus Lyle, the team’s hero in the America East title game, finished with 28 points to pace the Retrievers as he went 9-for-11 from the field.  Joe Shurburne (14 points), Arkel Lamar (12 points) and K.J. Maura (10 points) also finished in double-figures for UMBC, as they extended its winning streak to six games.

Virginia (31-3) won the ACC regular season by four games. They took the league’s conference tournament as well. The Cavaliers were the most consistent team in college basketball this season. The Cavaliers lost sixth man DeAndre Hunter to the season with an injury earlier in the week. They were still a heavy favorite in this game.

But Virginia struggled to knock down three-pointers. It was clear Virginia started playing scared once the upset became apparent. And that’s how once of the biggest upsets in sports history went down. Sophomore guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome led Virginia with 15 points each.

Virginia shot only 41 percent (23-for-56) from the field and 19 percent (4-for-22) from three-point range as they couldn’t find consistent offense or a go-to player.

UMBC advances to battle No. 9 seed Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats advanced earlier on Friday night with a balanced effort in a win over No. 8 seed Creighton.

UMBC social media won the night as much as the basketball team

Getty Images

The eyes of the sports world are on UMBC. Cinderella has arrived.

The No. 16 seed shocked No. 1 seed Virginia by double digits on Friday night as the Retrievers became the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

UMBC’s basketball team wasn’t the only group from the school ready to go on Friday night.

The school’s social media presence was trolling everyone and showing tons of swagger as the Retrievers built a second-half double-digit lead on Virginia.

The UMBC Athletics account called out pundits, trolled doubters and had fun with fans during a special moment in sports history.

Some examples:

Now that the historic win has gone down, UMBC, and their social media account, have become immortal.

No. 1 Xavier takes down No. 16 Texas Southern

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Xavier got off to a slow start, but rallied to run past No. 16 Texas Southern for a 102-83 NCAA tournament victory on Friday night in the West Region.

The Musketeers (29-5) had huge performances from seniors Trevon Bluiett (26 points) and J.P. Macura (29 points) as the duo combined for seven three-pointers and 35 points in the first 20 minutes. The duo ended up getting a third major scorer in the second half when senior big man Kerem Kanter stepped up his play. Kanter ended up with 24 points.

Xavier shot 45 percent (11-for-24) from three-point range and 54 percent from the field (35-for-64) in the win.

Texas Southern (16-20) went on a 16-0 run at one point in the first half to take a 20-13 lead. The Tigers had the momentum, but things quickly turned the other way when Xavier responded with its own 16-0 flurry.

The Tigers had five double-figure scorers, led by point guard Damontrae Jefferson with 20 points, but they couldn’t get stops on the other end. Guard Derrick Bruce finished with 18 points while Robert Lewis (14 points), Donte Clark (12 points) and Trayvon Reed (10 points) also finished in double-figures.

The Tigers started this season 0-13 as they lost all road games against tough competition. The SWAC champions rallied to win eight straight games before the NCAA tournament and put up an admirable fight before falling to the Big East regular season champions.

Xavier moves on to face the winner of No. 8 seed Missouri and No. 9 seed Florida State as the Musketeers could have a tough matchup against either team.

No. 4 seed Auburn survives off-night, beats No. 13 Charleston

Donald Miralle/Getty Images
1 Comment

Auburn did everything they possibly could to become the third No. 4 seed to fall to a No. 13 seed in their first round game of the NCAA tournament.

Charleston, who was essentially playing without their best player, Joe Chealey, who was a shell of himself as he battled an ankle injury, turned the ball over 21 times and shot 5-for-22 from beyond the arc and still managed to find a way to be ahead in the final three minutes.

The Tigers, who are eighth in the country in free throw shooting percentage, made just 15-of-32 from the charity stripe. They missed all 13 threes they shot in the first half — a first for the program in Bruce Pearl’s tenure — and finish the night just 5-for-24 from beyond the arc while shooting 35.6 percent from the floor.

After Bruce Brown missed a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left, Charleston’s Grant Riller had a shot to tie the game. He missed, Auburn finally made a free throw down the stretch, and the Tigers escaped with a 62-58 win that they barely deserved.

The most important part of that sentence, however, is “win”.

There’s a reason that the saying in March is “survive and advance”. As long as you survive, as long as you live to advance and play another day, there’s always a chance.

I don’t think there is a single player on that Auburn roster, on the Auburn coaching staff or in the state of Alabama that will believe that the way they played on Friday night will be enough to get this team — who were co-champions of the SEC that went wire to wire in first place in the league — where they want to be this year. And to be frank, with the injury to Anfernee McLemore and the shoulder issue that is plaguing Bruce Brown, there’s a chance that this team may be too beaten down to make any kind of serious run in March.

But they’re still here.

Hope is still alive.

And that counts for something.

Miles Bridges goes into takeover mode as No. 3 Michigan State survives Bucknell

Abbie Parr/Getty Images
1 Comment

It took a while for No. 3 seed Michigan State to get into a rhythm, but once they did, Bucknell, the Patriot League champs, didn’t have enough of an answer.

After heading into halftime with just a 44-40 lead, the Spartans held Bucknell to just 14 points in the first 16 minutes of the second half, pushing their lead as high as 18 points in an 82-78 win. The Bison hit a flurry of shots in the final seconds to make the final score look much more flattering than the second half actually was.

For Michigan State, however, the story of this game was Miles Bridges.

Oft-derided this season as a talent that couldn’t take over when his team needed him to, a player that was said to have “no game” by Big Ten expert that shall remain nameless, the NBC Sports Preseason Player of the Year took over against Bucknell. He finished with 29 points, nine boards and four assists, taking 22 shots from the floor with just seven of them coming from beyond the arc.

He went into takeover mode without simply settling for jumpers.

And that is when the Spartans end up at a different level. That’s when they reach their peak, and if we are going to see that Bridges for the rest of the NCAA tournament, then maybe — just maybe — this team has a chance to live up to the potential we all bestowed upon them at the start of the season.

The Spartans will advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament, where they will face off with the winner of tonight’s No. 6 TCU-No. 11 Syracuse game.