If Loyola of Chicago was going to waste a foul to stop Fresh Kimble from dictating play in the closing seconds, why did the Ramblers just let the St. Joseph’s redshirt junior receive the ensuing inbounds pass untouched at halfcourt?
Whatever the Ramblers figured Kimble would do with the ball when they used the last foul, it couldn’t have been worse than what he did after getting it with seven seconds remaining.
Kimble dribbled up to a Loyola defender, then drained a shot from about 23 feet with 0.4 seconds left to give St. Joe’s a 45-42 victory on Saturday at the Palestra.
“We ran the same play,” said Kimble, who scored five of his game-high 15 in the final 19 seconds. “[Hawks coach Phil Martelli] gave us the play during a timeout, they fouled us, and we ran the same exact play.
“They just happened to take [Hawks forward Charlie Brown] away and the guys trusted me. [Loyola] kept challenging us, and I was able to succeed.”
Schematically, it may have been the same play, but it was designed to get a pass to Pierfrancesco Oliva and then have him kick it out to an open shooter.
With seven seconds left against a Loyola team that plays some of the best defense in the nation, Kimble’s holding the ball and shooting a 23-footer seemed like a better option.
“It wasn’t exactly the way we drew it up, but [Kimble’s] got a little bit of freedom because his heart is bigger than his body,” Martelli said.
When St. Joseph’s (6-5) and Loyola scheduled this game, it was before the Ramblers (7-6) made their run to the 2018 NCAA Final Four.
Suddenly, a game that was part of the Jesuit Basketball Spotlight – an arrangement involving the 28 Division I Jesuit basketball programs designed to promote the schools and their athletic programs – got a higher profile.
There was a national television audience and 5,736 at the Palestra three days before Christmas and the St. Joe’s students on winter break.
In the end, it did not go down like an attention-grabbing matchup that the Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley conferences had hoped for.
In fact, it was a sloppy, butt-ugly affair that teams like to put in the circular file – unless, of course, you are the winner.
St. Joe’s shot 32.8 percent from the floor, while Loyola shot 34. The Hawks committed 13 turnovers while the Ramblers committed 15.
There wasn’t much beauty in the game until the final 19 seconds.
Kimble drove to the basket for a layup to put St. Joe’s up, 42-39, but five seconds later, Loyola’s Marques Townes tied it with a three-pointer.
That left it up to Kimble to be game-winning closing act.