BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli and his players did not need to see the end of the game that preceded theirs in Friday's quarterfinals at the Atlantic 10 tournament. They surely heard the roar that went up throughout the Barclays Center when top seed Saint Louis was knocked out on a buzzer-beater by No. 9 seed St. Bonaventure.
And they knew, whether or not they'll admit it, that they suddenly faced a wide open door on their path to the NCAA tournament.
Thanks to some late heroics from star guard Langston Galloway, the Hawks walked through that door.
Galloway capped off a game-high 31 points with a decisive step-back three-pointer that gave No. 4 seed St. Joe's a 70-67 win over No. 5 seed Dayton.
"We didn't play great, [but] we competed our backsides off," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said.
It was a tight contest throughout, with neither team ever leading by more than six points. Galloway connected on the big trey with 15.4 seconds to go.
The senior from Baton Rouge, La., told his teammates in a timeout a few moments earlier that he wanted the ball. He got his wish, and delivered.
"This team, they trust me with the ball at the end of the game," he said. "I just tried to make a play - I made a stepback and just got enough room to shoot it, and that's all I need to shoot the ball."
After Galloway's shot, Dayton's Devin Oliver missed from beyond the arc at the other end. DeAndre' Bembry got the rebound and was fouled with under a second remaining. He made one of two free throws to finish the scoring.
It did not unnoticed that Galloway appeared to put an elbow into the chest of Dayton's Kyle Davis as he took that stepback. The many Flyers fans in the Barclays Center gave the refs an earful when the replay came up on the video board, and coach Archie Miller joined the chorus during an ensuing timeout.
Galloway pled his innocence.
"I think the whole night, they were letting us play," he said. "Everybody was just trying to be physical and make plays, and that's what happened on the last play."
Jump to the 1:25 mark in the video below to see the play:
Martelli said it was "the kind of move that pros make." And it stirred memories for him of a similar moment 10 years ago when a similar shot didn't go in: Jameer Nelson's attempt at the buzzer against Oklahoma State in the 2004 NCAA tournament East Regional Final.
"It was kind of reminiscent of 10 years ago," Martelli said. "I wish that ball had gone in 10 years ago, on that same move."
This would be the elbow that the Dayton fans and Archie Miller were complaining about: pic.twitter.com/NcSY4GdLJp— Jonathan Tannenwald (@pretzel_logic) March 14, 2014
Better view of the elbow. Yeah, Langston Galloway got a bit lucky. pic.twitter.com/g90r8f3zNJ— Jonathan Tannenwald (@pretzel_logic) March 14, 2014
In addition to Galloway's big afternoon, freshman DeAndre' Bembry scored 15 points in his first ever A-10 tournament game. Ronald Roberts recorded 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, and Halil Kanacevic recorded nine points, 12 rebounds and three assists.
Coming into the afternoon, both the Hawks (22-9, 11-5 Atlantic 10 regular season) and Flyers (23-10, 10-6) were perched squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble. Dayton had a slightly better non-conference resume, but St. Joe's finished higher in the conference standings.
The Hawks are on much safer ground now, as they look forward to Saturday's semifinal against St. Bonaventure (1:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network). And they can thank a Philadelphia connection for not their not having to face the conference's best team. Jordan Gathers, nephew of legendary Philadelphia basketball product Hank Gathers, hit the shot that knocked the Billikens out.
Martelli congratulated the Bonnies, but admitted he would not have minded facing Saint Louis instead.
"For two years, Saint Louis has been the best [team] in this league, and there's a part of me that wants to measure our team against the best," he said.
Martelli was asked whether the Billikens' defeat makes his team's path to Selection Sunday easier. In his typically deadpan fashion, he took a long pause before declaring: "Nope."
All he was focused on in the moment was having another game to play.
"I just told the players that 21 times [in wins this season], it's been them, and now it's 22," he said. "They can have it until 9:00 tonight and then we will move forward with a chance to prepare - and that's all we've asked."
It is a sharp turn from how the mood was on Hawk Hill after the regular season ended with a home loss to La Salle.
"We had a bad week last week," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "We collectively had a bad week - not they. And when we met on Tuesday, I asked them to blow that out and to move forward, and to trust each other and believe in each other. That's what they did."
You can re-live all the action by reading the transcript of my live chat below.