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Loss to La Salle puts damper on Senior Day for Saint Joseph's

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It was billed as a day to celebrate Saint Joseph's senior class, which includes three players who have been immense contributors for the Hawks throughout their careers on Hawk Hill.

Sunday afternoon was also looked at as a day where Saint Joseph's would theoretically clinch an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

La Salle made sure any celebrations at Hagan Arena would only be made by those wearing blue and gold.

La Salle (15-15, 7-9 Atlantic 10) used a 17-3 run during the final nine minutes of the first half as a platform for a 71-63 victory which leaves Saint Joseph's (21-9, 11-5 A-10) NCAA Tournament hopes gasping for air.

It was a bright enough start for the Hawks as one of their senior leaders, Langston Galloway, knocked down four three-point attempts in the game's opening eight minutes as Saint Joseph's led 16-10 with 12:08 left in the 1st half.

Midway through the first half, all the Hawks early progress would be halted as Saint Joseph's only made one field goal over the final nine minutes of the first half as La Salle asserted control of the contest.

Halil Kanacevic, whose mother watched him play college basketball in person for the first time on Sunday, seemed to be trying to do too much, missing three-pointers and turning the ball over three times in the first half as a result.

"For the first time in my time, Senior Day was too emotional for some of them," Hawks coach Phil Martelli noted after the game with Kanacevic obviously in mind.

Kanacevic was also dogged by foul trouble for the third straight game as the Hawks senior forward was called for his third foul of the 1st half with 3:55 to play before halftime.

La Salle would take a 33-23 advantage into the locker room.

Saint Joseph's came out of halftime with the most urgency they showed all game as the Hawks scored the first seven points of the second half with a lay-up by DeAndre Bembry bringing the Hawks to within three with 17:44 to play.

On the Hawks next possession, Ronald Roberts was fouled while going to the basket, but failed to knock down either of his free throw attempts.

Free throw shooting, which has been a bugaboo for Saint Joseph's most of the season, cropped up as a problem once again at a very inopportune time.

Saint Joseph's would never get any closer to the lead as La Salle scored the next nine points, seven of which came from Jerrell Wright as his traditional three-point play gave the Explorers a 12-point lead with 14 minutes remaining.

Wright, who struggled with foul trouble in the first meeting between the two teams back in February, notched a double-double this time around with 17 points and 12 rebounds in 33 minutes of action.

Just before the mid-point of the second half, Saint Joseph's went on an 8-0 spurt with a lay-up by Chris Wilson suddenly bringing the Hawks within five with 10:21 left. However, the Explorers had an answer for the Hawks run as La Salle would score the next five points, all by Wright, to bring the Explorers advantage back up to double-digits.

Saint Joseph's would cut the deficit down to as close as seven points, but La Salle was clutch from the free throw line down the stretch, with Tyreek Duren connecting on all ten of his free throw attempts over the final 90 seconds to seal the victory for the Explorers.

Galloway scored 27 points for the Hawks and connected on five three-pointers in what was possibly his final game at Hagan Arena. Meanwhile, Bembry finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists as the freshman swing-man showed more assertiveness in the second half. Roberts finished with 13 points and 8 boards in what theoretically could also be his final action on Hawk Hill.

Duren passed former NBA three-point specialist Tim Legler for 14th all-time on the La Salle scoring list as he finished with 27 points including 16-of-17 from the free throw line for the Explorers.

While La Salle connected on 25-of-31 free throw attempts, Saint Joseph's struggled at the charity stripe as they made only 12-of-22 free throws on the afternoon. Roberts and Bembry in particular struggled from the line as they shot 1-for-5 and 3-for-8 from the stripe respectively.

Saint Joseph's lack of depth also came to the forefront once again as the Hawks got zero points from their bench. In fact, the Saint Joseph's bench players only logged a total of 10 minutes during the course of the game.

On the strength of Saint Louis' two-point win over Massachusetts on Sunday, Saint Joseph's clinched a bye into the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Hawks will face the winner of the Dayton-George Mason/Fordham game. The Hawks next action will be on Friday from the Barclays Center with tip-off scheduled for approximately 2:30 p.m. in Brooklyn.

If the Hawks wind up facing off against Dayton, it will be the third match-up between the two teams and may serve as a virtual "play-in" game for the NCAA Tournament. Saint Joseph's has won the prior two meetings between the two teams this season, including a 25-point shellacking at Hagan Arena just two weeks ago.

Instead of celebrating the Hawks five seniors and the promise of a trip to the NCAA Tournament, Saint Joseph's finds themselves squarely on the bubble for the "Big Dance." The Hawks were disappointing on Senior Day and head into the Atlantic 10 Tournament on the heels of consecutive losses for the first time since December.

Saint Joseph's will likely need at least one and perhaps two victories to feel good about their chances at an at-large bid. It will be time for those same seniors that were honored this afternoon to prove that their tenure on Hawk Hill deserves an NCAA Tournament berth.

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