By Sean Kennedy
Saint Joseph’s 65, VCU 61
With lack of depth a problem for the Hawks all season long, coach Phil Martelli threw convention out the window in the A-10 and went with the decision to play his entire starting five the full 20 minutes of the second half. The move was bound to be a gamble for a Hawks squad dealing with some tired legs playing their third game in three days and up against the harrying pace of the VCU Rams. However, his starters didn’t let Martelli down as Langston Galloway hit yet another three in the closing minutes to break a 54-54 tie and start a 7-0 run that gave the Hawks their first A-10 tournament championship since 1997.
Martelli’s three seniors led the way as Galloway was once again on fire from downtown, hitting 5 of his 8 attempts from behind arc for a game-high 19 points. Halil Kanacevic recorded another double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds, as the Staten Island native was the emotional leader of the team all weekend long at the Brooklyn-based Barclays Center. Finally, Ronald Roberts dropped 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks, including an emphatic denial at the rim in the closing seconds to put an exclamation point on the victory. Gambling conspiracy theorists then jumped all over a meaningless VCU three-pointer not being counted despite it being released with 0.3 seconds left (it affected the second-half spread, don’t you know).
Now, all eyes turn to Buffalo as both the Hawks and Villanova were placed in the bottom half of the East bracket. St. Joe’s received a #10 seed and will face UConn in their opening game Thursday night, followed by the #2 seed Villanova Wildcats taking on Milwaukee. If both teams advance, they would play each in the following contest. While it’s a fun possibility that these Big 5 rivals could do battle on the biggest stage in college basketball, I would have much rather them be in separate brackets to allow the opportunity for both teams to make long tournament runs. There’s no fun in no wanting either team to lose. We’ll have full previews of the teams’ opening games later in the week. For now, make sure to join our tournament challenge. Free to enter, up to $100 prize pool.