WASHINGTON, D.C. – If nothing else, St. Joseph’s knows it probably must play to the absolute last second if it wants to advance to the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
The fourth-seeded Hawks (15-15, 10-8 Atlantic Ten), who had a double-bye into the quarterfinals on Friday, drew No. 5 George Mason – a team that beat them twice on three-pointer buzzer-beaters.
The Patriots (16-16, 9-9) , led Otis Livingston II’s 21 points, held off 13th-seeded Massachusetts, 80-75, on Thursday at the Capital One Center.
St. Joe’s and GMU will play at 2:30 p.m.
In January, Livingston II hit a three-pointer as time expired to give the Patriots an 81-79 victory at home. In February, Mason’s Ian Boyd provided the déjà vu moment for the Hawks when he picked up a loose ball and drained a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded for a 79-76 win in Philadelphia.
St. Joseph’s “is a team with great players,” said Livingston II, who totaled 38 points and made 9 of 10 three-pointers against St. Joe’s “It’s going to be a tough game. Having close games in the regular season, it’s something we’ve become comfortable with – being in tight games down the stretch.”
St. Joe’s has had its share of close encounters, as 11 of 30 games have been decided by three points or less. Its nine losses by four points or less were the most in the nation.
The “hard luck” Hawks lost six Atlantic 10 games when the final shot of the game either snapped net or rattled off the rim.
St. Joseph’s needs to get ahead of Mason to see what might happen if the Patriots had to play catch up for a change..
In the first game, Mason held the lead for 35 minutes, and the game was tied for nearly three minutes.
In the second game, Mason went up by as much as 20 and led for a 38 minutes. St. Joe’s led once, for 17 seconds.
“It’s not just the buzzer,” St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “They’ve led for 74 of the 80 minutes. It’s not like we lost on a fluke play at the end after we really played great. We have to do a better job defensively and take them out of rhythm. We’re not going to win a tournament game 78-77.
The start of the game is going to be important. The Hawks have started fast at Hagan Arena and on the road.
“We had to do things to get this fourth seed. We won 10 league games. I want them to have the experience of walking into a place with their heads up and chest out. That’s what we’re going to do”