Recap: VA Commonwealth vs. Saint Josephs
Brooklyn, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Ronald Roberts Jr. and Halil Kanacevic both posted double-doubles and Saint Joseph's captured its first Atlantic 10 Tournament title since 1997 with a 65-61 win over No. 23 VCU on Sunday.
Roberts scored 15 points with 11 rebounds and Kanacevic had 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Langston Galloway paced the Hawks (24-9) with 19 points, including a 3-pointer that broke a 54-54 tie with 2 1/2 minutes remaining and gave them the lead for good.
DeAndre Bembry added 13 points and Saint Joe's assured itself a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008, when it lost to Oklahoma in the first round.
The Hawks went with their five starters for most of the game -- none of them played fewer than 37 minutes -- but Roberts, Kanacevic and Galloway each said they could go back out for more despite playing three games in three days.
"We just wanted to go out there, play harder than them, have more energy, and it's a great feeling now," said Roberts. "It's all worth it."
The Hawks were seen as a bubble team entering the A-10 tournament but likely had already locked up at least an at-large bid before Sunday with wins over Dayton and St. Bonaventure.
They are the No. 10 seed in the East Region and will play Connecticut in the first round.
In an interesting shuffle of the cards, the Hawks could see a familiar foe in the next round if they can get past the Huskies.
Bitter rival Villanova has the East's No. 2 seed and drew Milwaukee in the Round of 64.
The schools, who are part of the Philadelphia area's Big 5, are separated by just seven miles and play an annual series known as the Holy War. Villanova beat Saint Joe's by 30 points in this season's meeting on Dec. 7.
"I shut my Twitter down on Dec. 8," Saint Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "That was the day that the world ended in Philadelphia if you ask our fans."
Rob Brandenburg had 18 points and Treveon Graham scored 15 for the Rams (26-8), who will make the NCAA Tournament despite the loss.
They played without A-10 Sixth Man of the Year Melvin Johnson, who suffered a knee injury early in VCU's semifinal win over George Washington.
The Rams earned an at-large bid as the fifth-seed in the South Region and will meet Stephen F. Austin.
Saint Joseph's shot 24-of-50 from the field against VCU's vaunted "Havoc" defense and held the Rams to just 24-of-65 shooting.
Brandenburg tied the score at 35-35 with a 3-pointer 4 1/2 minutes into the second half and Graham's three gave the Rams their first lead of the game at 43-40.
A tight battle ensued. VCU pushed its advantage to 48-42, but Kanacevic scored four straight after a Bembry jumper to tie it.
Bembry's three-point play was part of an 11-2 Hawks run late in the game that gave them a 61-54 lead with under a minute left.
After Graham nailed a trey to make it a one possession game with 22 seconds left, Bembry then split a pair of free throws to push the Saint Joe's lead to four.
Galloway missed two free throws with seven seconds remaining, but Roberts came up with a block on Graham at the other end and the Hawks held on.
"I think they have had a terrific year," said VCU coach Shaka Smart, "and they earned this championship today."
Earlier, they jumped out to an 11-4 lead on a Roberts dunk, but VCU answered with seven straight to tie the game with just under 11 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half. Galloway then buried back-to-back 3-pointers as part of a 10-2 spurt that Roberts capped with another dunk.
The Rams cut the deficit to 28-24 at the half after Juvonte Reddic's jumper with over a minute left.Game Notes
VCU's reserves outscored the Saint Joe's bench 12-0, with Papa Ndao attempting
the only shot for a Hawks non-starter ... The Hawks out-rebounded the Rams
40-38 ... Saint Joe's had 12 turnovers compared to VCU's five ... The
Hawks shot 11-of-20 from the free throw line and the Rams went 8-of-15.