St. Joe's romps to 20-win mark

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ronald Roberts draws foul as he dunks on Dayton's Devon Scott.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ronald Roberts draws foul as he dunks on Dayton's Devon Scott.
Posted: February 27, 2014

AFTER Saint Joseph's lost by 30 to Villanova at home on Dec. 7, there was a not-so-subtle revolution among the Hawks "faithful." The coaches and players just went to the next practice and the next game, the practice after that and the game after that.

Nearly 3 months later, the Hawks have won 16 of their last 19 games. Last night at Hagan Arena, they posted Win No. 20 against a Dayton team that had won six straight. The revolution has been quelled.

In a contest to see which team would hit 20 wins first, it was no contest. The Hawks never gave the Flyers a chance, winning by 79-53 and playing about as well as a team can play against a good team that had not lost a game by more than 14 points all season, had wins against Gonzaga, California, at Mississippi, a one-point loss to Baylor and had not lost since SJU beat them on Jan. 29.

"One of the things I put on the board is that we have to start thinking about tournament style," said Hawks coach Phil Martelli, who now has eight 20-win seasons. "So we've played a team once. Now, we've played this team a second time. What are we doing?

"In our scouting report, it says trust the fact that these guys have improved since the last time we played them, but so have we."

St. Joe's needed a Langston Galloway buzzer-beater to win the game at Dayton. This time, the buzzer was a relief for the Flyers.

"These players like playing with each other, so we would like this to go for a very long time," Martelli said.

Dayton used 11 players before the Hawks used six. The starters were on and stayed on.

How good were the Hawks? After 14 minutes, they were shooting 13-for-19, had 34 points on 19 possessions (an insane 1.8 points per possession), had blocked six shots and rarely let the Flyers see the rim. The ball never stuck in one spot until somebody found an open man in position to score.

How good were junior point guard Chris Wilson and power forward Ronald Roberts?

Well, Wilson had a perfect game and Roberts had two of the most amazing dunks you will ever see, one over a very large man and one where he was outside the foul lane near the right block when he jumped. The pair was 16-for-19 at the same time Dayton was 16-for-56.

Wilson made five layups in the first half, three treys in the second half, a perfect 8-for-8 for a career-best 20 points.

"I think that was my first one," Wilson said of the perfect game. "We have such a balanced team, so many guys that can hurt you."

Roberts is certainly more than a dunker, but his dunks - 41 on the season - are unlike any dunks ever seen on Hawk Hill or just about anywhere else.

Halil Kanacevic has thrown dozens of lobs for Roberts' dunks. He had closer views of last night's dunk exacta.

Which was better?

"It's hard because he dunked on like a 6-9 guy and the second one, it was crazy," Kanacevic said. "We've seen it for 4 years. We get spoiled."

Roberts was not so sure about that second dunk.

"The second one, I kinda threw it in," he said. "I didn't think it was going to go in . . . Honestly, I just didn't even care. I just jumped. Whatever happened after that happened. I just wanted to go strong to the rim."

If you get these players and these coaches in a quiet place, they could reflect on the journey that has brought them to meaningful March games and contemplate the big picture. Right now, they are in the moment. At this moment, this team is closing fast on an NCAA bid, the first since 2008 when seniors Pat Calathes and Rob Ferguson pushed the Hawks into the tournament.

This time, in these games, it is one of the seniors or all of the seniors. Saturday against Fordham, it was Galloway's school-record 10 treys and career-best 33 points. Last night, it was Roberts (22 points, seven rebounds) and Kanacevic (10 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, four blocks).

In his last 14 games, Kanacevic has scored 175 points, taken 129 rebounds, dealt 70 assists and blocked 22 shots, all while shooting 68-for-118 (57.6 percent). He is going to finish his career north of 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 400 assists. And he is on the best team he has been on in during his college career.

"We got to have blinders, kinda like horse racing," Kanacevic said. "Just keep looking straight ahead."

The Hawks (20-7, 10-3 Atlantic 10) shot 58.3 percent, 60 percent from three, had 19 assists on 28 baskets while committing just six turnovers and holding Dayton (19-9, 7-6) to 31.7 percent shooting.

They really can't play much better, especially against a good team that was on a roll.

"They're really good people," Martelli said of his players. "They deserve good things to happen to them, and so far it has."

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