St. Joseph’s was doing what it had shown so many times this season. The Hawks were hanging around with St. Louis late in the second half.
Then, another familiar sighting occurred. The Hawks’ offense went cold for more than three minutes, and the Billikens were starting to pull away ... until Ryan Daly had enough.
The Hawks’ leading scorer reeled off 13 consecutive points, but his heroics weren’t enough. St. Louis (17-5, 6-3 Atlantic 10) defeated the Hawks, 78-73, at Hagan Arena.
Tied 60-60, the Billikens went on a 9-2 run over the next three minutes. Daly caught fire and knocked down three heavily contested threes to get the Hawks to within two points.
After getting a defensive stop, the Hawks (4-18, 0-9) got the ball back down two, with 31 seconds remaining. Daly opted for a quick three-point attempt with 19 seconds to play, but the shot hit the left side of the rim and was rebounded by the Billikens.
Daly carried the Hawks’ offense and finished with 35 points. The junior guard used his size to post up the smaller St. Louis guards, and he mixed in step-backs and pull-up threes to keep them honest. Daly’s most impressive finish came when he single-handedly sliced through the Billikens’ zone defense and finished with a nifty layup at the rim. But it was his three-pointers with St. Louis defenders’ hands in his face that gave the Hawks a chance late.
Cameron Brown struggled with foul trouble and finished with five points. Brown was missing for more than 10 minutes in the second half, and it took away a key offensive weapon. Myles Douglas, Anthony Longpre, and Lorenzo Edwards each finished with eight points.
St. Louis had 22 turnovers, but the Billikens’ 13-6 advantage on the offensive glass led to a 16-5 difference in second-chance points. Javonte Perkins scored 27 of his team-high 33 points in the second half.
“Just seeing the ball go into the hoop, you can find an extra gear that you don’t really realize you have until you’re pushed to the max,” Daly said.
“This is the team we want to be every game," coach Billy Lange said. “The challenge and the encouragement right now is we want to be one of the top teams in the Atlantic 10 in the month of February and in the early part of March, heading into the Atlantic 10 tournament. We’re knocking on doorsteps. We are right there.”
“We played well enough to win this game,” Lange said. “They made shots that you are willing to give up. Long twos contested. It’s hard.”
Daly likes to get mismatches against the smaller guards, but it’s not always easy to get him the ball. The Billikens got underneath the bigger Daly and forced him further out of the paint. Daly had his wins in the matchup, but the smaller Billikens didn’t make it easy with their relentless effort.