PHILADELPHIA, Pa. 3/14/2012 – The Saint Joseph’s Hawks men’s basketball team were granted a number two seed and a home game by the National Invitational Tournament Committee. The for more home games were good for the Hawks, but the season ends as Saint Joseph’ s falls to the Northern Iowa Panthers 67 – 65 at the Hagan Arena. Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli felt that his team let an opportunity to make the season special with a run in the NIT slip away.
“This was an opportunity that needed to be embraced,” Martelli said. “A post season game, home game, advancement on the line, and we didn’t embrace it.”
The Hawks lost in the most heartbreaking fashion as Panther forward Seth Tuttle made two free throws with 1.3 seconds in the clock to give his team the margin of victory. Tuttle scored 23 points in the game, 15 in the second half, but none were more important than the foul shots at the end. He scored the last four points for the Panthers. The game was tied at 63 on a three-pointer by Hawks sophomore center C.J. Aiken with 48 seconds to play. Tuttle untied with a drive to the basket. He missed the shot, but got his own rebound and the follow-up went in to give Northern Iowa a 65 – 63 at the 19 second mark. Saint Joseph’s got even again as junior guard Carl Jones found sophomore forward Ronald Roberts under the basket who slammed it home to even the score with 7 seconds to play. The Panthers got the ball to Tuttle who went to the basket, and was fouled by Roberts with one tick on the clock. Tuttle got open due to missed communication on defense by Saint Joseph’s.
“He (Roberts) got the dunk and we ran down,” said Saint Joseph’s sophomore forward Halil Kanacevic about how the last play unfolded. “Everybody was looking for a man. We had two guys guarding one guy. We have to communicate. If that kid’s not open (Tuttle), the guard has to take a tougher shot. He got a free layup.”
Tuttle added 11 rebounds to his evening’s work. Guard Marc Sonnen added 15 points. The Panthers out-rebounded the Hawks 41 – 34, 14 – 7 on the offensive glass. That led to Northern Iowa having a 40 – 24 edge in points in the paint, and 14 – 6 in 2nd chance points. The Hawks got a game-high 24 points from Jones, and 16 from Aiken. But Saint Joseph’s may have lost the game at the free throw line as they converted just 13 of 22 attempts.
“It’s a numbers game,” said Martelli. “Fourteen offensive rebounds, 13 – 22 free throws, those numbers in the post season are going to get you.”
The Hawks finish the season with a 20 – 14 record. Northern Iowa moves on, and Saint Joseph’s does not. Martelli looks to what it will take for his team to finally get another post-season game next year.
“For our team we’re going to need going forward, a guy who spills his guts and the other guys look and say if he can do that, I can do that.” said Martelli. A guy who can say to somebody this is the way it’s got to be. There are steps and gold rings top grab for, and we didn’t grab it.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian