It’s been quite the turn of events the past three days for Saint Joseph’s. The Hawks sat on the bubble as they made their way to Brooklyn. For the third time in three days St. Joe’s prevailed, winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship with a 65-61 win over No. 23 VCU.
St. Joe’s (24-9, 11-5 A10) is rolling into the NCAA tournament with some serious momentum, made more notable since earlier in March the Hawks had dropped back-to-back games to George Washington and La Salle. Phil Martelli’s team entered the afternoon as a projected 10-seed in Dave Ommen’s latest edition of Bracketology. The Hawks will likely slide up with a win over a ranked opponent and becoming the A10 champs.
The Hawks have been tested this week in Brooklyn. Dayton, another bubble team, could have ended St. Joe’s run on Friday, but Langston Galloway, who scored 20 of his 31 points in the first half, saved his biggest three points for last, lifting St. Joe’s to a 70-67 quarterfinal win. The next night it was Halil Kanacevic turn to carry the Hawks.
He dropped 26 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in a semifinal win over St. Bonaventure, the eight-seed which knocked off top-ranked Saint Louis the previous afternoon. The only way the Bonnies would earn an NCAA bid is if they ran the table inside the Barclays Center.
No question St. Joe’s will be a tough out in next week’s tournament with its ability to get production out of Galloway on the perimeter and Kanacevic in the paint.
VCU, on the other hand, has lost for the first time in seven games. The Rams were without their top outside shooter Melvin Johnson. Without him, they missed 10 of their first 11 3-point attempts, ending the day 5-of-26 from behind the arc.
Both these teams are projected to be two of six bids for the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The second Atlantic 10 quarterfinal of the day was a pivotal one, with five-seed Dayton and four-seed Saint Joseph’s both looking to strengthen their case for inclusion in the NCAA tournament field. And unlike their last meeting, a 79-53 Hawk victory on February 25, their matchup in Brooklyn went right down to the wire.
Langston Galloway, who scored 20 of his 31 points in the first half, hit a three-pointer with 17.9 seconds remaining to give Saint Joseph’s a lead they would not relinquish. The Hawks won 70-67, advancing to Saturday’s semifinals where they’ll play nine-seed St. Bonaventure. Freshman DeAndre Bembry added 15 points and Ronald Roberts Jr. 11 for Saint Joseph’s, which ended a two-game losing streak with the win.
Dyshawn Pierre paced Dayton with 11 points, one of three Flyers to reach double figures on the afternoon. While much was made of the non-call on Galloway’s push off to gain separation for the game-winning shot, Dayton’s inability to slow down the senior guard in the first half didn’t help matters either.
Dayton is now left to play the “waiting game,” hoping that their overall resume and solid play down the stretch is enough to merit a spot in the NCAA tournament field.
After falling 65-49 at Saint Louis on February 5 the Saint Joseph’s Hawks had a 5-3 record in Atlantic 10 play and the look of a team that while solid would not be a contender for the conference title. Since that defeat the Hawks have won six straight games, with the most recent result being an 83-74 win at St. Bonaventure on Saturday afternoon. And with Saint Louis’ loss at VCU, Phil Martelli’s team is just a game out of first place with two games left to play.
Saint Joseph’s shot 54% from the field and 21-for-24 from the foul line, with their proficiency from the charity stripe and from two (70.3% shooting on two-pointers) helping the Hawks win despite committing 16 turnovers. Langston Galloway led four Hawks in double figures with 27 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists, with freshman DeAndre Bembry adding 18 and Ronald Roberts Jr. 15.
Matthew Wright led four Bonnies in double figures with 18 points. Saint Joseph’s closes out the regular season with games against George Washington and Big 5 rival La Salle, and their Atlantic 10 title hopes remain intact.