Atlantic 10 Tournament – Semifinal Notes
by Phil Kasiecki
CINCINNATI – The best-case scenario has happened for the Atlantic 10 as we head into the championship game.
George Washington will not win the conference championship, which assures the conference of two NCAA Tournament bids. Had the Colonials repeated as champions, there would be just one, as teams like Charlotte, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and Temple didn’t have the RPI to get an at-large bid had they come up short of a championship.
Xavier is in the championship game, which means there will be a good hometown crowd for the championship game. The Musketeers are looking to remain the only team to win the tournament by winning four games in four days, having done it in 2004.
Friday Honor Roll
Mardy Collins, Temple: 25 points, 6 rebounds
Chet Stachitas, Saint Joseph’s: 18 points
Abdulai Jalloh, Saint Joseph’s: 18 points, 8 rebounds
Dwayne Lee, Saint Joseph’s: 14 points, 7 assists
Josh Duncan, Xavier: 20 points, 7 rebounds
Bryant Dunston, Fordham: 16 points, 9 rebounds
Hawks Ride Defense Into Title Game
They say defense wins championships, and Saint Joseph’s has made it to the championship game with defense. The Hawks have held their three opponents to below 32 percent shooting in getting to the final on Saturday night.
But that’s not all. The Hawks had four players score in double figures and had 19 assists on 20 made baskets. The latter is a large reason they made eight of their first 14 three-pointers and finished 13-28 in the game. For much of the game and especially in the first half, the Hawks put on an exhibition in ball movement, as they made a number of great passes to set up open shots.
“I’m blown away by 19 assists on 20 baskets. That’s basketball the way it’s meant to be played,” said head coach Phil Martelli.
One unsung hero in the game was sophomore Pat Calathes, who had eight points, six rebounds and five assists off the bench. He also made a number of plays to set up scores that didn’t go down as assists, and gave a big effort when they needed it. They used a short bench, as freshman Ahmad Nivins was out with a badly sprained ankle and is likely out on Saturday as well.
Defensively, they took away Antywane Robinson, who had shot the ball well in the first two games. Robinson was 4-11 from the field and 0-4 from long range.
“We really wanted to take him away,” said Martelli. “We wanted to make him dribble the ball.”
The win was the first in eight tries for the Hawks against Temple in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. It certainly couldn’t have come at a better time for them.
Rams Take Steps Forward
Fordham finished at .500 in Atlantic 10 play for the second year in a row. With their two wins in the tournament, the Rams are at .500 as they hope for the NIT to come calling. If it doesn’t, it will be the first time they would finish at .500 or better overall since joining the Atlantic 10 in 1995.
“Maybe we will get that call,” head coach Dereck Whittenburg said of an NIT bid.
The Rams have a sophomore-oriented lineup, starting four alongside senior Jermaine Anderson. That bodes well for the team’s future, while also partially explaining their relatively up-and-down season. They started the season 1-6, including losses to St. Francis (NY) and Iona in two of the three home games they had in non-conference play. They also had to endure a late four-game losing streak, before winning four in a row including their two wins in Cincinnati.
The NIT might seem like a long shot, but the program certainly has some forward momentum. Last season, they went 8-8 for their first .500 finish in Atlantic 10 play since joining the conference; this year, they repeated that and are at .500 now overall.
One record is guaranteed to be tied or set on Saturday night: the highest seed ever to win the conference tournament. Xavier was a No. 5 seed in 2004, which Saint Joseph’s is this year. The Musketeers, who are the No. 10 seed, have already set the record for the highest seed to reach the championship game.