NEW YORK -- Inside the Barclays Center on a Thursday night in March, in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, maybe you saw the St. Joseph’s Hawks team you’d expected all season. Entertaining. Efficient. Adding just enough big defensive plays, inside and out, to move on to the quarterfinals.
The Hawks got by Duquesne, 92-86, to advance to Friday night, when they will face second-seeded Davidson. They secured the lead late and held it at the foul line. Charlie Brown led St. Joe’s with 28 points, but contributions came from up and down the lineup sheet, with freshmen Jared Bynum adding 16 points.
"Just us, not to share with anybody ... ,'' St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli was deadpan joking at the postgame news conference. This part he wasn’t joking about: “We’ve played in the sunshine a lot. When the sun is shining, I’ve got a lot of guys that feel good. But when it gets a little cloudy, and you’ve got to dig your car out to get on about your day, we haven’t been able to do that. Today, we did it.”
Martelli continued, “So I’m not going to spend any time wondering about where it’s been for the last four months. I’m going to say it was here for 40 minutes, and can I get it back for 40 minutes tomorrow? Because we’re going to need it.”
It wasn’t Martelli’s imagination when he suggested defense played a big part in the victory. Some key tips caused breakouts that helped craft a little lead. Big men Taylor Funk and Anthony Longpre held their ground late.
St. Joe’s came out suggesting it meant business on the offensive end, with Charlie Brown starting things with a big drive, a big bounce, a big dunk. The Hawks made 4 of their first 7 shots. All fine. At the other end, not fine. The Dukes kept finding their way to an unprotected rim. They also hit a couple of threes, made 7 of 8 shots, and added a free throw for an early 17-8 lead.
At that point, if you had St. Joe’s up 49-43 at the half, congrats.
Brown made 5 of his first 7 shots for the Hawks, and the Dukes eventually calmed down. St. Joe’s drew to 27-21 midway through the half, as Troy Holston came off the bench and nailed a couple of threes. When it started to get away from St. Joe’s again, Lorenzo Edwards and Funk hit consecutive threes from up top to draw the Hawks within 35-32.
Most of the whistles to that point sent Duquesne to the line. Whether that played into Martelli’s late-half strategy or not, Hawks point guard Jared Bynum went hard into the lane on four straight plays and came away with two points each time, six of them from the foul line.
For the half, St. Joe’s had 37 possessions and only two turnovers. The kind of stat that gets you moving on.