GEORGE WASHINGTON had been ahead of Saint Joseph's from the start of the teams' Atlantic 10 opener Friday night at Hagan Arena, but the Hawks were making a run as the first half neared its end. SJU star Shavar Newkirk had just scored on a strong drive and made a steal at midcourt. He looked up at the clock, saw he had enough time to get to the basket and went in from the left side all alone.
Just as he was set to go up for the layup that would bring his team within four points, Newkirk's left knee buckled, the buzzer went off and he limped dramatically into the corner behind the GW bench and under the stands, disappearing from sight, done for the night.
A few minutes after he was injured, Newkirk was taken to the training room behind the stands. He had 10 points when he left, after having averaged 21.2 points, with only three games of fewer than 20.
The Hawks' run, from what was a 12-point deficit with four minutes left in the first half, continued as the second half began. They got it tied on a Chris Clover three, took their first lead of the game with 10 1/2 minutes on a Lamarr Kimble three-point play, made very late threes after getting outscored by from the arc by 36-9, played with incredible passion and turned what looked like a lost cause into a very unlikely 68-63 victory.
"The players in that room deserve a lot of credit for that compete in the second half," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said.
Newkirk will get an MRI on his left knee for what is for now being described as a "sprain."
Nobody whined at halftime, according to the coach.
"They felt us," Martelli said of his team's second-half defense against the Colonials.
Newkirk returned to the bench midway through the second half, sitting at the end with a wrap on his knee. After the game, he walked to the locker room on crutches, behind his teammates.
Newkirk acknowledged he doesn't know the extent of the injury, but is hopeful, saying: "Most likely, it's good. I won't be off the court for long."
The Hawks (7-5) won despite getting crushed on the glass, 49-29, including 24-8 in the first half. They missed eight of 11 second-half free throws and were being outscored by those 27 points from the arc until they absolutely had to make them late.
Freshman Charlie Brown, off a pick-and-pop with Kimble, nailed a three with 2:25 left to give SJU the lead for good, 64-63.
Kimble, with the shot clock running down and being defended by 6-9 Yuta Watanabe, hit a long trey with 32 seconds left to clinch it.
"It was next man up," Kimble said of Newkirk's absence.
The late three?
"I was kind of mad he blocked my shot before, but I was able to get the get that one off," Kimble said. "I had the confidence and it dropped down for me."
SJU won because it had only three turnovers, and the second-half defense against GW (8-6) was sensational, holding the Colonials to 28.6 percent shooting and limiting their leading scorer, Tyler Cavanaugh, to 4-for-20 (10 points.
St. Joe's best defender, James Demery, had not played since the opener when he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot. He got in at the first media timeout and was a critical part of that second-half defense that changed what looked like a certain loss into a win to remember.