BROOKLYN, N.Y. — There was some uncertainty about the postseason before Saint Joseph’s got to the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Hawks were on the NCAA Tournament bubble and nobody was sure how many games they would have to win to ensure a spot in the big dance.
Saint Joseph’s erased all doubt on Sunday, landing the automatic bid from the A-10 with a 65-61 win over Virginia Commonwealth in the conference championship game. It is the first A-10 title for Saint Joe’s since 1997.
The big two of Langston Galloway and Halil Kanacevic once again powered coach Phil Martelli’s team. Galloway hit a 3-pointer when the score was tied at 54 with 2:26 remaining to send the Hawks on a 7-0 run that put them up for good.
Galloway finished with 19 points on 5-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Kanacevic put together a strong day on the boards, grabbing 14 rebounds to go with 11 points.
Big man Ronald Roberts Jr. was a big part of Saint Joe’s effectiveness underneath. The senior had 15 points and 11 rebounds, including some high flying dunks.
VCU got a big performance from junior guard Rob Brandenberg, who came up with all the big shots. He was the only VCU player to find any success from beyond the arc, making 3 of 7 on his way to 18 points.
Saint Joseph’s got off to a good start, leading by as many as eight in the first half. They took a 28-24 lead into halftime.
VCU countered every run the Hawks made, but the Rams never led in the first half.
VCU’s Havoc defense gave Saint Joseph’s fits the entire game. The Hawks were forced into 12 turnovers, eight of which came in the first half. The Rams were effective in their full-court trap, making it difficult for Saint Joe’s to get the ball up the floor after each made basket.
NOTES: Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year Melvin Johnson was out with a knee injury he suffered in the semifinal game against George Washington. The 6-foot-3 VCU guard was averaging 10.6 points per game and shooting a team-best 39.5 percent from beyond the arc. … Saint Joseph’s won the only other meeting between the two this season, a 69-62 victory at Hagan Arena in Philadelphia. … Sunday was Saint Joseph’s sixth appearance in the Atlantic 10 final and first since 2008. VCU played in their second straight A-10 championship game.
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