BROOKLYN - Langston Galloway dribbled to his right, his left arm raised enough to strike Dayton's Kyle Davis. As Davis stumbled backward toward the free throw line, the Saint Joseph's senior stepped back, squared his feet and released his 11th three-point attempt of the afternoon.
The Barclays Center clock indicated 19 seconds remained when the ball swished through the net. An ensuing timeout provided ample time for the video board to display a replay - four replays, actually - and Dayton fans a chance to plead their case that Galloway had pushed off. But the referees' whistles remained silent, and, moments later, when the Flyers' Dyshawn Pierre failed to release one last desperation heave, the Hawks celebrated.
Galloway's sixth, albeit disputed, three-pointer proved the clincher in St. Joe's 70-67 victory over a red-hot Dayton squad in yesterday's Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinal game. On the heels of an 0-2 week to the the regular season, this was a crucial win, one that all but assured the Hawks a spot in their first NCAA Tournament since 2007-08. But no one in the locker room seemed ready to discuss that just yet.
"I'm not sure," Galloway said when asked how much the victory helps the Hawks' NCAA Tournament chances. "I'm just worried about [today's A-10 semifinal against St. Bonaventure], getting another win, and trying to win this tournament."
The fourth-seeded Hawks (22-9) have their most wins since the 2004-05 season. Yesterday, they got 15 points from DeAndre Bembry, nine points and 12 rebounds from Halil Kanacevic, and 11 points and seven rebounds from Ronald Roberts. But they certainly wouldn't have advanced without the sharpshooting Galloway, whose 31 points were two shy of his career high.
The win marked St. Joe's third triumph of the season over Dayton (23-10) and the second in which its first-team, all-conference guard hit a game-winning three. But Galloway's banked triple with 1.8 seconds left in the Jan. 29 meeting certainly didn't cause as much of a stir.
Asked about the possibility that he pushed off to gain separation from his defender before the decisive shot, Galloway said he didn't think he had.
"I think the whole night, [the refs] were letting us play," he said. "Everybody was just trying to be physical and try to make plays, and that's what happened on the last play."
"Could have gone both ways," said Pierre, the Dayton forward. "We thought it was a push-off. But that's a really good team. It was a really good shot, and it was just a tough shot."
"It could go either away," Dayton coach Archie Miller echoed. "The referees did a good job. It was a well-officiated game. [We] had a great crew on the game. And, if you ask me what did I see, I felt like he got some space. I felt like he created some space.
"Now, is every referee going to call the call with that much on the line? Probably not; let the kids finish it out. We still had an opportunity to control what we wanted to control down the other end, and we did a poor job, and I'll take the blame on that one."
To reach the game's apex, both teams battled through a neck-and-neck contest that featured 16 lead changes. With 4 minutes, 31 seconds left in the game, after a pair of Galloway free throws, St. Joe's had its largest lead of the game, 66-60. But Dayton, which entered the game a winner in 10 of its previous 11, clawed its way back, and a Matt Kavanaugh 12-footer with 39 seconds left gave the fifth-seeded Flyers a 67-66 lead.
Cue Galloway on the deciding bucket, a play Martelli originally drew up as a triple-screen to free the senior for an open look. But Galloway started too early, point guard Chris Wilson too high, and Galloway was left just dribbling.
"I really wanted Ron [Roberts] to get up there and set a vertical ball screen," Martelli said. "He didn't get there, kind of froze. Everybody froze. And then Langston, the move that he made was really a pro move. That's a move that the pros teach; you drive the ball into the guy's chest and then you do a step back. Kind of reminiscent of [Jameer Nelson] 10 years ago; I wish that ball had gone in 10 years ago on that same move."
Galloway was not the only A-10 player yesterday to sink a game-winning shot. A couple hours earlier, St. Bonaventure's Jordan Gathers knocked down a buzzer-beating three-pointer to propel the ninth-seeded Bonnies to an upset of top-ranked Saint Louis. Gathers, who just happens to be the nephew of the late Hank Gathers, made his shot from the same area of the court as Galloway.
The Hawks and Bonnies met only once during the regular season, an 83-74 St. Joe's victory 2 weeks ago. Galloway led the way in that one, too, with 27 points and eight rebounds.
"When I speak to these guys about being seniors and having your moment in time, he's really drilled in on me," Martelli said of Galloway, St. Joe's career leader in three-pointers. "He's such a kid that wants to please, and I thought right in the beginning of the game, I liked the idea that he was hunting, and I could feel it; and there was no hesitation on where we were going to go."
A win today would help the Hawks pad their NCAA Tournament resumé. After yesterday's game, Martelli made it clear he felt both his team and Dayton, considered on the bubble despite its recent surge, deserved bids to the Big Dance.
"Coaches campaigning or coaches thinking in any way, shape or form that campaigning to Joe Lunardi has anything to do with it, it's numbers, pure and simple," Martelli said. "We'll now be under 40 RPI. We have 11, I think, road wins, road or neutral. We played in this league and we're in the semifinals in this league. Enough said.
On Twitter: @jakemkaplan