DENVER - Facing frigid temperatures and a 9-day layoff, the Saint Joseph's Hawks lost their focus late last night against the Denver Pioneers, falling 77-73 in overtime.
"To me, it's a fruitless trip to come all this way only to give a game away like that," Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli said. "That's unacceptable."
The Hawks saw their seven-point halftime lead evaporate as the team had no answer for the Pioneers' press to begin the second half. Yet after going down 45-43 with just over 13 minutes remaining, the Hawks answered with a clutch, 11-0 run that included two big threes from DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles.
It seemed like the Hawks had regained their footing, but then the turnovers began to pile up as Denver's smothering defense left Saint Joseph's rattled.
"It's just silly," Martelli said after his team turned the ball over nine times in the second half for a total of 14. "We weren't prepared enough for the press and that's what changed the game. We had that game going in the right direction and we gave the ball away."
The Hawks (6-5) watched a four-point lead slip through their fingers with 2 minutes remaining before Brett Olson tied it at 65 with 42 seconds left for Denver (6-7).
Coming out of a timeout, Miles got a good look at a three after the defender tripped but the shot rimmed out much to the shock of the entire Hawks bench.
"It looked dead in," Martelli said. "If we were going to play again tomorrow, we'd let him take the same shot and I'd be proud of him for it."
"It looked good," Miles agreed. "It felt good, too. It hurt to see it roll off."
As the seconds ticked off, the Pioneers appeared to have an opportunity under the basket yet lost control of the ball out of bounds to force overtime.
The Hawks quickly went down 70-65 in the extra period before Miles drilled his fourth three of the game to give Saint Joseph's new life. But Olson beat the shot clock with a three-pointer with 16 seconds left, proving to be the dagger in the Hawks' final non-conference game.
Fresh off setting a new career-high of 23 against Marist in his last outing, Miles finished with a new best of 24 points on a blistering 8-for-11 shooting. Yet he was overshadowed by Olson, who matched him blow-for-blow while providing the Pioneers with 27 points.
Bembry scored 20 points for the Hawks, with a game-high eight rebounds and three blocks on 8-for-13 shooting.
The Hawks will look to bounce back as they begin conference play against George Washington at home.