NEW YORK -- The shot missed off the rim, just a minute left, and Fresh Kimble followed it all the way, walking under the basket. It was a missed free throw, though. The pain on Kimble’s pinched face a symbol of how close the St. Joseph’s Hawks had just come to extending their season and knocking Davidson out of the Atlantic 10 tournament.
The last 150 seconds were going to decide Friday’s A-10 quarterfinal inside the Barclays Center, score tied. A Davidson guard drove and scored and got a foul call. A Davidson center missed one of his hook shots, defended away from the rim, but somehow got to the rebound even as it bounced to the ground.
When a driving Hawk shot fell off the rim, those possessions were essentially the late difference as Davidson, the No. 2 seed, prevailed over the 10th-seeded Hawks, 70-60.
"These guys just talked [in the locker room] about playing until you’re exhausted,'' Hawks coach Phil Martelli said right after leaving that room. “That’s what I think every guy who played for us, played till they were exhausted. Just didn’t play well enough,”
"It was a grinding game,'' Martelli had said right off the bat. “It was just a little rough around the edges. Those couple of plays. I think it was tied at 60. We got caught in a switch. They got an offensive rebound.”
The Hawks had almost found their path. It became obvious, the one St. Joe’s had chosen to try. Get to the hoop. Use the shortest and quickest route possible. Charlie Brown (16 points) and Kimble (15 points) and Chris Clover (12 points) all went in hard and successfully. There were just no jumpers to be had to join in. The Hawks made 2-of-19 threes. Hawks coach Phil Martelli noted Davidson always makes shooting threes difficult with their long defensive arms. "Not for 2-for-19,'' he added.
If those shooting numbers were the first to jump out to the average eye, Martelli pointed to others after his team finished the season with a 14-19 season. The 11 turnovers committed by the Hawks, almost twice as many as the night before against Duquesne. And, maybe bigger, the 17 offensive rebounds for Davidson. That last one was far from the only one.
The first half inside the Barclays Center had been really rough and skittery, no rhythm to be seen. As these things tend to do, after halftime, a basketball game broke out, a riveting one.
It’s not a great start to a half when the other guys score in 16 seconds, and you had possession to start. Davidson tipped the opening pass, stole it, scored inside, and hit on a couple of their trademark backcuts, scoring on their first four possessions to widen a one-point lead out to seven. Martelli pointed out that instead of getting deflated by that, his guys upped their energy, tipping balls, getting back in it. Clover converted a three-point play, after Kimble and Charlie Brown drove and scored.
If the season wasn’t what the Hawks had expected of themselves, this tournament seemed to be. They’d battled. You know when you’re playing Davidson it’s going to be a battle.
"This group of guys, we gave everything we had every day,'' Brown said. “It was kind of tough losing, but we gave it all we had.”