Thirty-six hours after St. Joseph's rode a wave of emotion toward its biggest win of the season, the Hawks yesterday were unable to summon the energy to hold off fired-up Dayton on Senior Day at University of Dayton Arena.
Seniors Brian Roberts and Jimmy Binnie combined for seven three-point baskets in the first half and St. Joe's never recovered as the Flyers (20-9, 8-8) knocked off the Hawks (18-11, 9-7), 79-67, in the final Atlantic Ten Conference regular-season game.
The defeat cost St. Joe's a first-round bye in the A-10 tourney. The No. 5 seeded Hawks will play No. 11 Fordham Wednesday at 2:30 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Although St. Joe's finished in a three-way tie for fourth place in the conference with Richmond and Charlotte, the Hawks lost out to Richmond on a tiebreaker.
St. Joe's was in a difficult spot yesterday. On Thursday night, the Hawks stunned No. 8 Xavier in the final men's regular-season game at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse before it is expanded and renovated. The Hawks had to go into one of the most difficult venues in the conference to play Dayton, which is 14-3 at home and, like St. Joe's, is trying to stay alive for at-large consideration from the NCAA tourney selection committee.
"Before the season, I did express to the league higher ups that I thought such a quick turnaround might put us at a competitive disadvantage, but I never mentioned it to the players," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "Still, I thought they could overcome human nature. It is what it is."
The game got away from St. Joe's in the first half when Dayton went on a 22-5 run to build a 31-16 lead that reached 41-24 at halftime. The Flyers shot 9 for 18 from three-point distance, ignited by the long-range accuracy of Roberts, who made all four of his three-point attempts in the first half.
"We were playing instead of competing," Martelli said. "We had no offensive flow in the first half. It took us until the second half to get going."
The Hawks made a run early in the second half, pulling within 50-43 with a little more than nine minutes remaining, but the Flyers stopped their momentum when senior Andres Sandoval drained a three, then followed with a layup off a fastbreak to start a 7-0 spurt. St. Joe's was unable to get closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Dayton's seniors - Roberts (15 points), Binnie (12) and Sandoval (12) - combined for 39 points as the Flyers shot 49.1 percent. Roberts has 1,863 points during his career. Dayton dominated the boards, 42-28.
Ahmad Nivins led St. Joe's with 23 points and Pat Calathes added 17.
Martelli thought drawing a bye would be significant for his team, but not because it has a short bench.
"I just think with the psyche of this team, playing one less game would have an impact," he said.
Dayton started the season 14-1 with wins over Louisville and Pitt, but had problems adjusting to the loss of highly touted freshman Chris Wright, who suffered an ankle injury on Jan. 9. The Flyers went into yesterday's game with the second-highest RPI in the A-10 at No. 37.
At Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City.
No. 8 Dayton vs. No. 9 St. Louis, Noon
No. 5 St. Joseph's vs. No. 12 Fordham, 2:30
No. 7 La Salle vs. No. 10 Duquesne, 6:30
No. 6 Charlotte vs. No. 11 Rhode Island, 9
No. 1 Xavier vs Dayton-St. Louis winner, Noon
No. 4 Richmond vs. St. Joe's-Fordham winner, 2:30
No. 2 Temple vs. La Salle-Duquesne winner, 6:30
No. 3 UMass vs. Charlotte-Rhode Island winner, 9
SEMIFINALS: Friday, 6:30 and 9
CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, 6