ALBANY, N.Y. - In three of Saint Joseph's four losses, the Hawks coughed up leads, losing two of those three in overtime.
Last night at the Times Union Center, the Hawks coughed up another lead - but this time, it didn't faze them.
Rob Ferguson's three-point basket with 1 minute, 24 seconds to play put Saint Joseph's (6-4) back on top to stay, and the Hawks escaped with a 74-68 victory over Siena. The Hawks held Siena (6-4) without a point over the last 1:33. It was the Hawks' second straight win after losing three of the previous four.
"Other than Holy Cross, which beat us wire-to-wire, that's exactly the same game that we've lost, where we've had leads for long periods of time and didn't finish the job," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. "Today, at least we can get on the bus and say we finished the job."
Ahmad Nivins led the Hawks with 20 points, 13 in the second half, and seven rebounds. He helped seal the victory by going 5-for-6 from the foul line in the last 2 1/2 minutes.
Pat Calathes, who put an exclamation point on the game with a steal and a dunk with 12 seconds left, finished with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
"Tonight, it was a now-or-never mentality," Nivins said. "It's a good thing, especially going into conference play."
The Hawks led by as many as eight points in the first half and were up at halftime, 36-31. Calathes drained a three-pointer with 12:53 left in the game to put the Hawks up by nine.
Siena was 5-0 at home and didn't want to erase the zero. The Saints roared back with an 18-7 run to turn the nine-point deficit into a four-point lead on a basket by freshman Ryan Rossiter.
On another night, that body blow might have been too much for the Hawks. This time, they responded with an 8-2 run of their own, taking a 65-63 lead on a pair of Nivins free throws.
The teams traded leads and Siena led for the final time when Ronald Moore (12 points) drove past Nivins to score, making it 68-66. But on Saint Joseph's next trip downcourt, Ferguson (14 points) hit a trey on an assist by Tasheed Carr. It was 69-68 with 1:24 left and the Hawks never trailed again.
But it wasn't until Calathes scored on a dunk with 12 ticks remaining that Martelli and the Hawks could breathe. Calathes stepped into the passing lane by the foul line, intercepted a pass and took it the distance for his third steal.
"I had to make sure I had it," Calathes said. "If I had missed it and they'd have knocked down a shot, I think I wouldn't be in the locker room right now. I'd probably be on a plane back to Florida [his home state]."
Edwin Ubiles led Siena with 16 points. Tay Fisher came off the bench to score 14 while freshman Clarence Jackson, a Cherokee High product from Marlton, N.J., scored 10.
Siena played without its top inside threat, 6-6 forward Alex Franklin, who injured his back in a win over Holy Cross on Dec. 22. *