Saint Joseph’s Holds Off #21 Massachusetts, 73-68

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PHILADELPHIA – Chris Wilson hit a pair of free throws with :30 seconds to play to help Saint Joseph’s (15-6; 5-2 A-10) hold on for a 73-68 win over #21/19 Massachusetts (17-4; 4-3) in Atlantic 10 action at Hagan Arena.

Halil Kanacevic led the Hawks with 18 points and five assists while Ronald Roberts scored 17. DeAndre’ Bembry had 13 points and Wilson scored 12.

Massachusetts fought back from a 17-point first half deficit and tied the game 67-67 with 1:20 to play on a layup by Derrick Gordon. Saint Joseph’s followed with a free throw from Langston Galloway at :56 to regain the 68-67 lead, but UMass tied it again on a foul shot by Chazz Williams at :39.

Wilson’s free throws at :30 gave Saint Joseph’s a 70-68 lead, but UMass turned the ball over on its next possession and Papa Ndao came away with the ball. The junior hit both free throws at 12.6 seconds to give the Hawks a 72-68 lead. UMass missed a three-point attempt and Galloway was fouled with :06 remaining, and made one free throw to provide the final margin.

Trailing 41-25 at halftime, Massachusetts outscored the Hawks, 13-5, in the first five minutes of the second half to come within 46-38. Saint Joseph’s maintained the lead and eventually built it back up to 64-51 on a layup by Kanacevic and jumper by Bembry at 6:30.

After a tip-in by Kanacevic at 5:52 gave SJU a 66-53 lead, UMass’ Gordon and Williams scored all of the points in a 13-1 run that tied the game, 67-67, at 1:23.

The Minutemen shot 59.3 percent from the field in the second half. Saint Joseph’s went cold from the three-point line hitting just 1-of-5, after making 5-of-8 in the first half.

“I don’t think we played that well in the second half at all. We had 32 points and we lost a 16-point lead,” said SJU coach Phil Martell. “It was gutty, and we did what we had to do to win a game, but I’m concerned  about offense. This is the fourth game in a row where we’ve struggled offensively and we’ve got to get back to being crisp and sharp. That was neither crisp nor sharp.”

In the first half, Saint Joseph’s played at a fast pace and fed off the energetic crowd which saw five members of the 2003-04 NCAA Elite Eight team honored prior to tip-off. The teams traded leads until the Hawks broke it open with a 10-2 run, led by five points from Kanacevic, to take a 28-17 lead with 6:24 remaining. Saint Joseph’s then used an 8-1 run, paced by a three-pointer from Bembry, to build up its biggest lead of the game, 39-22, with 1:11 remaining.

Gordon led UMass with 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting, while Williams had a double-double with 16 points and 10 asists. Cady Lalanne added 12 points and Raphiael Putney grabbed 12 rebounds.

It was Saint Joseph’s first win over a ranked team since November 16, 2012 when the Hawks defeated #20 Notre Dame and first victory over a Top 25 team at home since an 82-72 win over city rival Temple on February 25, 2012.

“The score is the only number that matters in this game. They (UMass) deserve tremendous credit for continuing to come. It was the same game we had up there- we were holding 10 with five minutes left,” said Martelli. “The crowd was great and the students were great. We had a one-game season. I know there’s many of you who want to record it as a six-game season and now a three-game season. We had a one-game season, and we won that one game. We’ll take tomorrow off and then start again on Monday for our game on Wednesday night.”

SJU will host its second consecutive Top 25 team on Wednesday when #19 Saint Louis visits Hagan Arena.

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