By JAMES HILL
Forty minutes was simply not enough for another great 7-10 matchup in the NCAA Tournament. And while Saint Joseph’s went toe-to-toe with Connecticut for the first 40 minutes, the Huskies were just too much in overtime.
UConn lived at the free throw line, sinking 15-of-16 in the extra stanza, en route to an 89-81 win over the Hawks in the NCAA Tournament’s second round.
“Sometimes in life you don’t get really what you want,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “If anyone deserved to keep playing, these guys certainly did.”
Following a back-and-forth second half in which the two teams traded body blows, Saint Joseph’s simply did not have enough left in the tank for overtime. On the second possession of the extra frame, Hawk senior Halil Kanacevic slid in to defend a driving DeAndre Daniels, only to be called for his fifth foul. Without the big man, the wheels fell off for St. Joe’s.
“It hurt us in the end with him not being on the court,” said Langston Galloway following the game. “He does it all.”
Without Kanacevic in the game, UConn continually drove the lane, drawing fouls on the Hawks left and right. The Huskies had only taken four free throws in regulation. They took four times that many in the final five minutes – though part of that was due to intentional fouling by the Hawks.
Shabazz Napier was the main villain from the Hawks’ perspective. The senior guard sank eight free throws in overtime to finish with a team-high 22 points. Daniels chipped in five of his 18 in the extra frame, and Ryan Boatright added 17 points for UConn.
“Connecticut did everything they had to do,” Martelli said.
Galloway led St. Joe’s with 25 points. Ronald Roberts registered a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The Huskies had a great opportunity to end the game in regulation on a Napier three. With 2.7 seconds to play and the score tied at 70, Niels Giffey triggered to Daniels at midcourt. Daniels turned in the air and found a streaking Napier for an open look from three. But the shot found nothing but back iron, forcing the extra session.
Saint Joseph’s controlled the game throughout the first half, shooting 56 percent from the floor and leading nearly the entire time. The Huskies managed to keep it within in striking distance thanks to a balanced attack – all five starters had at least five points. A Boatright three from the corner in the half’s waning seconds pulled UConn to within five.
St. Joe’s and UConn took turns making runs after halftim, as Kanacevic and Chris Wilson authored their own runs sandwiched around UConn runs led by Napier and Daniels. The final run was capped by a Daniels three-pointer, setting the stage for the exciting finish.
With the scored tied at 70 and 39 seconds to play, the Hawks had a shot for a win. After calling timeout, the Hawks drained the clock. Galloway ended up with the ball at the end of the clock, but he lost the handle and couldn’t find the rim on his desperation shot.
“I wanted to out with the ball being in my hands,” Galloway said after the game. “I’m definitely upset with myself for not getting a better quality shot.”
Napier’s three-pointer would then miss, sending the game to overtime.
DeAndre Bembry poured in 16 points for the Hawks, and Wilson added 13. Kanacevic had his usual productive line: 12 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.
The Hawks’ bench failed to score in the game in only nine minutes on the floor. The starters played the entire second half until Kanacevic’s fifth foul was called in the first minute of overtime.
James Hill covers Saint Joseph’s basketball for Philahoops. Reach him at [email protected], on Twitter @jrhill17, or leave a comment below.