It might be too dramatic to call it a must-win, but as stated after St. Joseph’s lost to Atlantic-10 leader St. Louis on Wednesday, the Hawks had little margin for error concerning an NCAA Tournament bid.
So St. Joseph’s (16-7 overall, 6-3 A-10) remains in the NCAA conversation after Saturday’s 69-62 win over VCU at Hagan Arena.
What was most impressive about the win was that the Hawks didn’t allow VCU to play their game, which is running up and down the court at a frenetic pace.
The Rams (19-5, 7-2) had averaged 77.4 points in their previous eight A-10 games. Yet the Hawks limited their transition scoring chances, making VCU operate more from the perimeter.
And the Hawks did a good job of handling the pressure from VCU, which entered the game leading nation in forced turnovers, 19.3 per game.
The Hawks turned the ball over 12 times.
“They are heavy on their press and want to get a chaotic type of rhythm into the game and we kind of held it off,” said Halil Kanacevic, who had seven points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. “We made it our tempo type of game and made it work.”
The Hawks weren’t flawless from the foul line, but were improved. They shot 13 for 20 (65 percent), which isn’t great, but better than the 58.2 percent in their previous eight A-10 games.
And the Hawks hit 8 of their final 9 free throws, possibly providing future confidence.
While this and the win the previous Saturday over UMASS are the two biggest victories of the year for the Hawks, they understand that there is more work to do to impress the NCAA Tournament Committee.
They are still realistically on the outside looking in.
“This was definitely a big win but if you lose the next game it doesn’t mean anything,” said Langston Galloway, who scored a game-high 24 points.
He’s right and that next game won’t be easy. The Hawks visit La Salle 11 a.m. on Saturday.
The Explorers (12-11, 4-5) are struggling but they gave St. Louis all it could handle in a 65-63 loss. La Salle has the ability to beat any team in the A-10.
St. Joseph’s certainly understands this and that’s why the Hawks realize they must quickly put this win behind them and get ready for a major challenge against the Explorers.