The St. Joseph's Hawks didn't make it easy on themselves Saturday night as they desperately tried to cling to a lead that had reached 17 points early in the second half against St. Bonaventure.
But the Hawks defense, combined with a pair of free throws each from Shavar Newkirk and James Demery, held up for an 85-78 Atlantic Ten victory over the Bonnies before a crowd of 4,061 at Hagan Arena.
Demery scored 24 points and Newkirk added 23, and both provided senior leadership for the Hawks (7-7, 2-1 A-10) down the stretch. St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli called it a "team win," also citing the contribution of redshirt sophomore Pierfrancesco Oliva, who helped with nine points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
"These guys have two team wins this week," Martelli said, a reference to Wednesday's overtime win over VCU. "It's not just saying the seniors did a great job, and they had 47 between them. But that was a team win and the same on Wednesday. But we're still not there yet."
As for Oliva, Martelli said: "It was a high-IQ game in the second half. They were doing a lot of switching. He saw some plays that other players don't see. He's a veteran player. He's played in NCAA games and it showed."
St. Bonaventure (11-4, 1-2) was led by Jaylen Adams with 19 points and seven assists, and received a fine contribution from freshman Izaiah Brockington, an Archbishop Ryan graduate who knocked down three three-pointers and scored 16 points.
The Hawks limited guard Matt Mobley, who came into the game averaging 17.8 points, to just two on 1-of-5 shooting.
St. Joseph's led, 42-35, at the half behind 11 points each from Newkirk and Demery, and came out red-hot in the second half, increasing its margin to 16, 53-37, in the opening 2 minutes, 13 seconds of the period, with Newkirk capping the 11-2 run on a conventional three-point play.
The Hawks got the lead to 17 on Oliva's three-point play and again, 64-47, on Demery's three-point basket with 14:23 remaining. But the Bonnies roared back with a 13-2 spurt over the next four minutes, and Adams knocked down two free throws and a runner in the lane to close his team to within 66-60 with 10:24 remaining.
The Bonnies got to within 79-75 on Courtney Stockard's layup with 1:09 to play, but Stockard tipped the ball away from the basket after it fell through the hoop and was called for a technical foul. St. Joe's freshman Taylor Funk missed both free throws, however, and Newkirk and Demery each went 1-for-2 on subsequent possessions.