PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/31/2018 – The Saint Joseph’s Hawks were looking to bounce back from two losses against the Saint Louis Billikens, winners of three of their last four games. It was a pace to the Billikens liking, slow and tough. At times it seemed like swimming through seaweed. Yet at the end Saint Joe’s had a chance. Saint Louis had one more chance and a free throw by Davell Ruby with 3.1 seconds showing proved provided the winning point as the Billikens come away with a 60 – 59 win over the Hawks.
“That’s what we had on our board,” said Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli about the Saint Louis pace. “They are slow in their attack. The zone contributed that, but the offensive rebounds added possessions. They out ran us in the first half, but there were no fast break points in the second half for either team.”
It wouldn’t be easy for the Hawks playing without leading scorer James Demery out due to an ankle injury. They were forced to play uphill having the lead for just over a minute. Eventually, SJU fell victim to a 42 – 27 rebounding margin for SLU, 12 – 5 on the offensive glass.
“It comes down to getting stops and that was what we weren’t doing,” said Newkirk. “It became a ground game.”
Saint Joseph’s came back to take a lead on a Nick Robinson three-pointer at 51 – 50 with 3:38 to go. Saint Louis answered with three consecutive three-pointers to lead 59 – 53 with just under two minutes to play.
The Hawks battled back much like they did most of the game, getting baskets by Taylor Funk and Shavar Newkirk to get to within a point. After a Billikens turnover Newkirk went to the line for two shots. He made the first to tie the game at 59 with 13.4 seconds showing on the clock.
The deciding possession game when Roby was fouled and made the second of two shots. Saint Joe’s would not get another shot off as the horn sounded.
“We wanted to go to Shavar,” said Martelli about the final possession.
“We are supposed to get it, it is our home court,” Newkirk said. “But we didn’t do it.”
Funk led Saint Joseph’s with 21 points, two shy of his career-high, 7 of 13 from the floor and 4 of 9 from distance. Newkirk added 16 points. As a team the Hawks committed 11 turnovers.
The Billikens had four players score in double figures as Aaron Hines and Jalen Johnson each scored 11 points, while Hasahn French and Roby counted 10 each. French took down a game-high 9 rebounds while Roby set a career-mark with 8 boards. Leading scorer Javon Bess was held to 4 points, well under his average of 13.5 points per game.
The Hawks had their five-game winning streak at the Hagan Arena snapped. Saint Joe’s (9 – 12, 4 – 5) will look to end the three-game skid on Saturday at La Salle.
“We knew what was coming, but we didn’t answer, we lost by a point,” Martelli said.
Written By: Glenn Papazian