Saint Joseph's bounced from NCAA tournament after overtime loss to Connecticut
BUFFALO - Halil Kanacevic could only sit and watch as Saint Joseph's season was swinging in the balance. A fifth personal foul had deprived the Hawks' senior leader and most valuable player of the game's final 3 minutes and 47 seconds, which he spent nestled into a seat on the bench between teammates Daryus Quarles and Isaiah Miles.
"It's tough," Kanacevic said afterward. "You don't want to go out like that. I definitely don't want to go out like that."
St. Joe's most accomplished season in 10 years came to an end last night in an 89-81 overtime loss to seventh-seeded Connecticut in a second-round NCAA Tournament game at the First Niagara Center.
Following a stretch of 20 wins in 25 games that culminated in Sunday's Atlantic 10 Tournament title, the seventh-seeded Hawks (24-10) started hot but couldn't pull out the victory and advance to see another day.
Kevin Ollie's Huskies moved on to play in tomorrow's third round against the victor of last night's later game between second-seeded Villanova and 15th-seeded and Milwaukee, the Horizon League Tournament champion.
UConn (27-8) outscored St. Joe's, 19-11, in the extra session. The Hawks had chances to win in regulation, a pair of Chris Wilson free throws extending their lead to three points with 49 seconds to play. But the Huskies' Amida Brimah hauled in a rebound on a miss, sunk a two-pointer while being fouled and made the ensuing game-tying free throw with 39 seconds remaining.
Langston Galloway scored a game-high 25 points in his final collegiate game, finishing his career as St. Joe's second all-time leading scorer, behind only Jameer Nelson. Fellow senior Ronald Roberts Jr. scored 15 points and brought down 10 rebounds, five on the offensive glass, and Kanacevic added 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
UConn's Shabazz Napier, the American Athletic Conference's Player of the Year and one of the nation's best guards, scored 24 points, 19 after halftime, and recorded eight rebounds and six assists. The 6-1 senior also made several key plays in overtime, going on a personal 7-0 run midway through the extra session to give the Huskies some separation on the scoreboard.
DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright chipped in 18 and 17 points, respectively, for UConn.
"It's definitely been a journey. We've been through so many ups and downs," said Galloway, one of five seniors on St. Joe's roster. "The main reason why I came here and the rest of these guys came here was to bring St. Joe's back and get them back to this point. It's been a long time since we've been at this point, in the tournament. And I wouldn't do it with any other group of guys."
Galloway finished his career with 1,991 points, putting him second on St. Joe's all-time scoring list, behind only Nelson, now with the Orlando Magic. During last night's game, Galloway, also the program's all-time three-point king, passed Bernard Blunt on the scoring list.
"He's a wonderful, wonderful young guy," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "He worked to be this good. When you start talking about all-timers, you start with the person he is. He's on that list as an all-time person. The numbers speak for themselves. He's had an awful lot of opportunities.
"They've been through some things and stayed the course. I don't know if we've ever had a player more proud to wear the St. Joe's uniform."
St. Joe's shot a blistering 56 percent from the field in the first half, a mark great no matter the opponent. But it was made even more impressive by the fact that UConn entered the game holding opponents to a mere 37.8 field-goal percentage, 10th best in the nation.
However, 14 St. Joe's turnovers, nine after halftime, and 11 made three-pointers by UConn kept the Huskies in the game. As did Napier.
"I was in the locker room, and I was just telling myself, 'Man, I've got to do something because my teammates need it,' " Napier said.
"That was a very, very tough team that we just beat," said Ollie, the former 76ers point guard who's in his second season as UConn's coach. "That's not a 10 seed, and I don't think we're a 7 seed."
This was St. Joe's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 5 years. It was just the third team in program history to claim a conference tournament championship.
"We have a message on the wall in our locker room, we put the message on the blackboard before every game, and then we say it, 'Act like a champion,' " Martelli said. "I just told the team, that's exactly what they did for 45 minutes, and really what they've done since June.
"Sometimes in life you don't get really what you want. There are reasons that may be out there for anybody. I don't know why. But if anybody deserved to keep playing, these guys certainly did. Connecticut did everything that they had to do . . . So we came in here as champions, and we're going to leave that locker room tonight. It will be a long night tonight, probably a long weekend. Then we'll get each of these guys on their path to life. If it's the hardest thing they face, they've lived a blessed life.''
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