SAINT JOSEPH'S has played its way into the NCAA Tournament. If the selections had been yesterday, the Hawks would have been well into the field, perhaps as a 10 or 11 seed.
After winning 83-74 at St. Bonaventure Saturday, its 17th win in 20 games, SJU (21-7, 11-3 Atlantic 10) also was very close to clinching a bye to the A-10 Tournament quarterfinals.
Given that the at-large field is constantly evolving, SJU could get passed and be back out of the field, but the Hawks are in a great spot as the regular season enters its final week.
The Hawks beat the Bonnies (16-13, 6-9), even though Halil Kanacevic (several unlucky fouls on the way to a foul out), the senior coach Phil Martelli has called his "most indispensable player," barely played in the second half.
Fellow senior Langston Galloway hit one big shot after another and finished with 27 points. Freshman DeAndre Bembry (18 points) is closing strong. Ronald Roberts was 7-for-8 before also fouling out late. And Isaiah Miles (11 points in 18 minutes) made important shots in place of Kanacevic who still managed five points, four rebounds, five assists and five blocks in 19 minutes.
SJU shot 27-for-50 (54 percent) overall and 21 of 24 from the free throw line. The Hawks, who came into the game third in fewest personal fouls nationally, had an abnormal 21. Still, one of the hidden stats that has made this team a winner is that even though they have been a poor free throw shooting team (64.1 percent before the game), they have gotten to the line 164 more times than their opponents and have outscored them by 86 points from the line.
SJU shoots an excellent 47.4 percent overall and 38.8 percent from the arc. This team does not beat itself, has seven true road wins and a résumé that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will understand and like.
La Salle never trailed at Fordham, led from 2 minutes into the game until 35 seconds remained and then had to win it, 64-62, after running a baseline inbounds play for a Tyreek Duren game-winner at the buzzer.
La Salle (14-14, 6-8 A-10) led 9-0 and 21-6, but could never put the game away against the Rams (9-18, 2-12).
La Salle had four players in double figures, led by senior Sam Mills (18 points). It was a strange game in a strange season for the Explorers, but it got them back to .500 with two regular-season games left.
Drexel's regular season could have been so much better than 16-13, 8-8 CAA and it absolutely ended in frustration with a 54-52 loss at Northeastern (10-20, 7-9). The Dragons will get Northeastern again Saturday in the CAA quarterfinals at Baltimore Arena.
No. 4 seed Drexel would have almost certainly had 20 wins or more if Damion Lee had not torn his ACL. Still, the Dragons mostly made the best of an unfortunate situation. In the finale, Drexel led 50-43 with 3 minutes left, but the offense went south, a few free throws were missed, a ball was thrown away, a foul of a three-point shooter was committed and a winnable game was lost.
Chris Fouch and his teammates each scored 26 points. Drexel held Northeastern to just 29.4 percent shooting, but the killer stat was 29 free throw attempts for Northeastern to just 11 for Drexel.
No defense for Temple
There are obviously many reasons for what happened to Temple this season. The most important reason why the Owls have a school record for losses is they are simply a very bad defensive team, something very un-Owl like under Fran Dunphy and, before him, John Chaney.
After losing 89-79 to Houston at the Liacouras Center and allowing the Cougars to shoot 61.5 percent, Temple (7-21, 2-14 American) is 275th nationally in defensive efficiency, allowing 1.1 points per possession. The defense slipped after Lavoy Allen left, but the offense was good enough to make it up for it. This defense has fallen off the cliff.
Dalton Pepper had 24 and Will Cummings had 18 points and eight assists for the Owls who, for the most part, been able to score all season. Temple had just four turnovers against Houston (15-14, 7-9), but the Cougars scored a ridiculous 1.37 ppp and you can't win with that kind of defense.
Penn coach Jerome Allen sent out an all senior starting lineup against Yale - Miles Jackson-Cartwright, Fran Dougherty, Steve Rennard, Dau Jok and Cameron Gunter.
The Quakers (7-18, 4-7 Ivy) were in the game all night, but being in the game and winning the game are not the same as Penn lost again, 70-63.
Jackson-Cartwright scored 20 points in his final home game. Sophomores Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry each scored 15 for the Quakers.
Yale (15-11, 9-3) was 24-for-31 from the foul line while Penn was just 8-for-14. Combine that with the 17 offensive rebounds Yale got and Penn lost despite outshooting Yale 45.5 percent to 38.2 percent.