ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Exactly one week ago, the Saint Joseph’s Hawks shut down then-No. 8-ranked Xavier in the final game played at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse before that decades-old arena is closed for renovations next season.
The fifth-seeded Hawks will have the opportunity to upset No. 10 Xavier again after slowing down No. 4 Richmond for a 61-47 victory in the Atlantic Ten Conference quarterfinals Thursday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
St. Joe’s (20-11) and top-seeded Xavier will meet in the A-10 semifinals Friday at 6:30 p.m. The Musketeers (27-5) defeated Dayton, 74-65, in their second round match-up.
The Hawks held Richmond (16-14) to 37 percent shooting and out-rebounded the Spiders, 34-21.
“Part of the reason our defense was so successful was we trusted each other,” junior gurad Ahmad Nivens said. “We had a good game plan and guys were confident to step up and put a lot of ball pressure up there. We just knew we had help behind us and I think that was a big step for us tonight.”
Senior Rob Ferguson, who broke the school record for games played by participating in his 131st contest, led the Hawks with 16 points on 6 of 6 shooting. Nivens scored 13 points and snared eight rebounds, while Pat Calathes added 12 points and Tasheed Carr chipped in with 11.
Richmond’s Jarhon Giddings was the only Spider to score in double-figures, hitting for 16 points. The rest of the Spiders shot a combined 30 percent from the field.
“An awful lot of credit goes to the assistant coaches, in this case, Dave Duda,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said of the second-year assistant coach. “He had a great game plan, he had great suggestions for what we could do to take them out of their rhythm.
“One of the things that we wanted to do was play a vertical game offensively, but it was the defensive end” where the game was won, Martelli said.
St. Joe’s took a 13-12 lead with 10 minutes, five seconds left in the first half and held the upper-hand for the remainder of the contest. The Hawks utilized a 12-2 run over a five-minute period to go up, 52-33, with 5:15 remaining in the second half.
The Hawks, who tumbled to fifth place in the A-10 standings after losing games to La Salle, Saint Louis, Temple and Dayton in the past few weeks, managed to knock off Xavier behind Calathes’ 17 points. He was one of five Hawks to post double-digit scoring efforts in the game.
It will be the Hawks third game in as many days, but Nivens said the team isn’t worried about fatigue.
“There’s a really big sense of urgency among this group about not wanting the next game to be our last,” Nivens said.
FROM THE MIND OF MARTELLI
In a nearly 10-minute post-game press conference, St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli dished on everything from basketball to ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi and disgraced New York City Governor Eliot Spitzer, whose involvement in a call-girl scandal led to his resignation.
Here are the highlights:
On the difference between this year and last year’s squads:
“The change from last year to this year is that we’re older and I think that we have a vocal presence. Tasheed Carr is very, very vocal with these guys. To be honest with you, they’ve been better coached this year. Last year I was so inpatient that by this time of the year I had worn myself out and probably worn them out so patience is a big deal with this group, but a vocal presence from a guy like Tasheed Carr has made a difference.”
What Carr says to make his teammates better:
“I don’t understand all the things because it’s a different generation the way he speaks to them. He is very aggressive with them. He will very much get into their faces collectively, not individually, but collectively. They voted him captain before the year started, he had not played a game for us and they voted him captain because there was an ingredient that was missing on this team … Certainly, I like the fact that it doesn’t always have to come from me. You can hear him probably more than you hear me at a lot of practices and buses and hotels and things like that.”
On going up against No. 10 Xavier again:
“Well I would say that any chance that you get to compete against a power – and I don’t care what it is – you know, you’re trying to get a job, you’re trying to date a different girl – as long as you’re not married. I’m not talking about anything like the Governor of New York … See you think people are just into basketball. I study the whole American culture here … I think that tomorrow night is an opportunity and I hope that everybody is excited about the opportunity because you’re going to have a Philadelphia team – I’ve been saying this – Atlantic City is the right place for the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Tomorrow night you’re going to see it. I don’t know what the place holds but you’re going to have a Philadelphia team in the second game and a Philadelphia in the first game, the expressway is going to be packed coming down and I’ll be shocked if this place isn’t sold out. Anytime you get to compete against the very best … It’s an exciting opportunity for this group.”
On whether or not St. Joe’s deserves an at-large berth:
“I don’t even get into that. I have very little energy to burn. You know, you’ve got a guy here who has self-proclaimed himself a ‘Bracketologist.’ Ask him. He’ll tell you. You might have to pay him for him to tell you. But I’m not really interested in all that.”
On failing to make any non-conference postseason tournaments last year:
“I know a lot of people count on us, but they really count on me to produce a program. So when you spend the whole summer apologizing for winning 18 times as we did, that’s what led to my impatience. But it also led to my change and my wife really was the biggest change. In the summer when it was quiet, she would say to me, ‘You didn’t do a very good job last year.” And she would explain her reasons why that at times this group of guys needs a little more nurturing … We didn’t have a real strong group unit last year. A lot of it was I had to direct and I had to lead and I had to pull and I had to pry and it was exhausting. I know when we came to this tournament last year I was exhausted and they were exhausted – emotionally and physically.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also read: “Xavier wins, Burrell clarifies remarks”