The Hawks used a 9-0 run midway through the second half to take a 57-48 lead with 6:23 to play after a Halil Kanacevic layup. Kanacevic took on a more important scoring role for Saint Joseph's after St. Joe's senior forward Ronald Roberts Jr. left the game early in the second half with back spasms after an awkward landing on an attempted alley-oop play and did not return.
Over the final 5:26 of the game Massachusetts (13-1, 1-0 Atlantic 10) outscored Saint Joseph's (9-5, 0-1 A-10) 18-5 as Chaz Williams and Trey Davis took over the game late for the Minutemen.
The biggest play of the game came with just over a minute remaining. After DeAndre Bembry blocked a Derrick Gordon shot, Bembry made a crucial save to give the Hawks possession, leading 62-61. As Bembry brought the ball towards half-court he was pick-pocketed by Maxie Esho, who took the ball to the basket for an uncontested slam dunk to give Massachusetts a 63-62 lead.
Saint Joseph's had their chances to re-take the lead but some of their late-game execution was lacking.
Langston Galloway came up short on an open three-point attempt with 38 seconds left, allowing the Minutemen to extend their lead to 3 after two free throws from Davis.
The Hawks final possession did not result in as good of an opportunity as the final three-point attempt came from Papa Ndao, who missed badly, allowing the Minutemen to seal the victory in the Atlantic 10 opener for both teams.
Saint Joseph's led during the majority of the first half and opened up an early 16-7 lead on the heels of 8 quick points from Galloway.
The Hawks went into the locker room with a 31-28 advantage but they will look back and feel they should have had a larger lead at halftime. St. Joe's turned the ball over 10 times in the first half (17 for the game) which allowed the Minutemen to stay in touching distance during a first half where the Hawks had the better of the play.
Kanacevic led Saint Joseph's with 19 points and also corralled 13 rebounds to notch his fourth double-double of the season. Galloway added 18 points while Bembry chipped in with 16.
Chaz Williams led all scorers with 22 points in the win for the Minutemen with Esho adding 12 points and Raphael Putney ended up with 11 points for Massachusetts.
Saint Joseph's will look to rebound from this bitter defeat on Saturday evening with a trip to Virginia to take on Atlantic 10 newcomers George Mason. The Patriots struggled to a 7-7 record in non-conference play and start their Atlantic 10 schedule on Thursday evening against VCU. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. with game coverage being provided nationally on the CBS Sports Network.
* Derrick Gordon, a transfer from Western Kentucky who chose Massachusetts over Saint Joseph's in a recruiting battle two years ago, finished with 8 points for the Minutemen.
* Saint Joseph's struggles continued at the free throw line as the Hawks only made 10-of-17 free throws, including just 4-of-11 in the second half.
* Saint Joseph's sophomore forward Isaiah Miles missed the game with a concussion, but did travel with the team. Miles has not be ruled out for Saturday's game against George Mason.