This time, the stakes are even more substantial, with a trip to the semifinals, against either UMass or Temple, on the line. Today, Hawk Hill Hardwood will preview Friday's game, both looking forward and looking back at last Wednesday's game between the two Atlantic 10 squads.
On February 29th, Saint Joseph's trekked to Olean, New York for their final game of the A10 regular season. The Hawks had a first-round bye in the conference tournament at stake, as well as an opportunity to bolster their NCAA tournament resume.
Saint Joseph's led the Bonnies 39-38 at the half, and actually held a 67-61 lead in the closing minutes of regulation. Bonaventure took a two-point lead late in the contest on a deep Andrew Nicholson three-pointer. In the game's final seconds, Saint Joseph's in- bounded the ball to C.J. Aiken and got an incredibly fortunate foul call, which sent Aiken to the line, where he calmly nailed both free throws to force overtime.
Saint Joseph's again held a late lead in the first overtime, 84-78, with roughly twenty seconds to go. Once again, Bonaventure knocked down two threes to force a second overtime. This time, with a large chunk of their starting lineup fouled out, the Hawks didn't have the manpower to hold on, and Bonaventure got a 98-93 victory. That win earned them the four-seed in the A10 tournament, and a first-round bye.
Saint Joseph's shot over 50% from the field in the losing effort, including 12-30 from three-point range. The Hawks, however, were handled on the boards, where Bonaventure out-rebounded them 44-29. For Saint Joseph's, Langston Galloway and Carl Jones each chipped in 20 points, while A10 6th Man of the Year Ron Roberts contributed 18 points and 7 rebounds.
For the Bonnies, it was all about A10 Player of the Year, and future pro, Andrew Nicholson. The star forward had a game-high 32 points and 14 rebounds, killing the Hawks both inside and out, where he shot 3-5 from three. The Bonnies also got double-digit points from Demitrius Conger (16), Da'Quan Cook (14), Charlon Kloof (12), and Matthew Wright (11).
A major issue for the Hawks during last week's contest was foul trouble. Ron Roberts and Halil Kanacevic both fouled out of the game. In addition to those two, Langston Galloway and CJ Aiken were also both saddled with foul trouble. For a good chunk of time down the stretch in regulation, the Hawks were forced to play Chris Wilson for Langston Galloway. Wilson actually responded to the challenge, playing arguably his best game thus far as a Hawk, with 13 points and 5 assists.
For Saint Joseph's to win on Friday, and reverse their fortune, they will need their frontcourt to play aggressively yet stay out of foul trouble. Kanacevic in particular needs to remain on the court to battle the likes of Cook and Nicholson on the boards. In their first match-up, the Bonnies had an astounding 18 offensive rebounds, compared to four for the Hawks.
Saint Joseph's earned this trip to the quarterfinals with a win Tuesday night at Hagan Arena over the Charlotte 49ers. The Hawks took that game 80-64 behind terrific performances from Roberts, Galloway, Jones, and Kanacevic. The Bonnies, on the other hand, got to rest and prepare having earned the first-round bye.
The winner of this quarterfinal contest will play the winner of UMass-Temple. The Hawks and Bonnies tip at 2:30 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. A weekend date with the Minutemen or Owls is on the line.