NEW YORK – Xavier has spent the last half decade ruling over the Atlantic-10. Saint Joseph’s entered the season as the favorite to take the Musketeers spot atop the conference.
Needless to say the 2012-2013 season has not gone as expected for either team, but with a tournament bid hanging in the balance, the two Atlantic-10 staples fought and clawed until the bitter end, with Saint Joseph’s escaping with a 58-57 win on Thursday night in the first round of the Atlantic-10 tournament.
This performance was indicative of the type of season Saint Joseph’s has had. They would take the lead before stalling out. Their talent would get them over the hump, but their lack of a killer instinct restricted them from taking the game over.
For most of the game it seemed like Saint Joseph’s had the better talent but Xavier outplayed them as a team. But following the under-12 timeout in which they trailed 44-36, the Hawks demeanor changed.
Ronald Roberts, who spent much of the first half quiet and reserved, became a force on the low block, grabbing misses and fighting for loose balls. The team fed off of his energy. Head coach Phil Martelli was pleased with the way his team responded. “The players deserve a lot of credit here. They worked their tails off on Tuesday and Wednesday to be ready. They said all the appropriate things to each other during time‑outs in the last segment.”
An eight point deficit turned into a two point deficit, and by the time the under-8 timeout came, the Hawks had regained the lead, 48-44.
“We had a big basket down eight, got Halil on an inside play, and everybody caught their breath. I think Langston hit a three in that little run; because, we’re fragile, we’re very, very fragile.”
Xavier clawed back over the final three minutes of the game, and it appeared as if the Hawks would again wilt under the pressure and bright lights. But the Hawks did what good teams are supposed to do down the stretch of big games. They hit their foul shots.
Langston Galloway hit two free throws with 1.4 seconds remaining and Isaiah Philmore’s buzzer-beating attempt rimmed out at the other end, giving the Hawks a much-needed victory.
St. Joseph’s doesn’t have the resume of an at-large team, but they do have the roster makeup. Desperation can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do, and with a team as talented as they are, desperation might just be the key to the Hawks’ postseason success.
You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir