In a key battle between two teams squarely on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament, Saint Joseph's found a way to get past Dayton 70-67 in a closely contested game at the Barclays Center.
In the third meeting between the two teams this season, it was the Hawks who were able to complete the season sweep although this was the highest quality contest between the two teams out of the three games they've faced off against each other.
Anybody who watched this game would have to feel that both of these teams are worthy of being in the NCAA Tournament, no matter the outcome.
"If justice is to be served, they (Dayton) will get their names called on Sunday," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli told the media after the game.
Martelli will justifiably be relieved that his team won this game, as he and the Saint Joseph's (22-9) players will be less nervous heading into Selection Sunday.
Neither team led by more than six points during the contest, but it was Dayton (23-10) who took charge during most of the first half with an early 8-0 run giving the Flyers an 8-3 lead on the strength of a three-pointer by Dyshawn Pierre.
A 12-4 stretch a few minutes later allowed Saint Joseph's to take the lead with Langston Galloway knocking down a three-pointer to give the Hawks a 19-15 advantage with 11:50 left in the first half.
Galloway almost single-handedly kept Saint Joseph's in the game during the first half as he scored 20 points and also notched a pair of steals before halftime.
Vee Sanford continued his stifling play for Dayton and his three-pointer put the Flyers back up by four, 30-26 with 4:27 left before halftime.
Galloway continued to show his assertiveness as he drove to the bucket for a lay-up to score the final points of the first half, giving Saint Joseph's a 35-34 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.
After the first half, Martelli seemed satisfied with his team's effort, saying “I like the fact that when we got down (fell behind) we didn’t put our heads down.”
Saint Joseph's had ten seconds of madness during one span in the second half. Starting the sequence with a 47-44 lead, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic committed turnovers in quick succession, both leading to Dayton lay-ups, putting the Flyers up 48-47 with 11:57 to play.
Moments later, Galloway knocked down two three-pointers in a two minute stretch, bagging his first points of the second half. Then, Kanacevic converted a traditional three-point play heading into the under eight minute media timeout, giving the Hawks a game-high five-point lead, 61-56.
A few minutes later, Roberts had a thunderous follow-up jam after a missed three-pointer from Papa Ndao which electrified the crowd and gave the Hawks a two-possession advantage. A pair of free throws from Galloway on the ensuing possession gave St. Joe's a game-high lead, 66-60, heading into the final media timeout.
Saint Joseph's went cold over the next three minutes as Dayton scored the next seven points with Matt Kavanaugh's baseline jumper from 15 feet putting Dayton up 67-66 with 39 seconds on the clock.
On the next possession, Galloway got away with a push-off before knocking down a clutch three-pointer from straightaway, giving Saint Joseph's a 69-67 lead with 19 seconds remaining and drawing the ire of Dayton coach Archie Miller.
After a timeout, Dayton did not execute well on their final possession and a Devin Oliver three-pointer was well off the mark. DeAndre Bembry grabbed the rebound and made one of two free throws for Saint Joseph's.
Dayton got the ball back with seven tenths of a second remaining, but they were unable to get off a half-court heave before the final buzzer and Saint Joseph's came away with a crucial victory.
Galloway finished with 31 points for Saint Joseph's, just two points off of his career high and a personal best for him in eight career Atlantic 10 Tournament games. Bembry added 15 points in his first career A-10 Tournament contest while Roberts finished with 11 points and a pair of emphatic blocks.
Pierre led Dayton with 11 points in what was a balanced scoring effort from the Flyers which saw ten different players score in the game.
Neither team shot free throws very well but the Hawks did finish with an edge in that department, going 15-for-25 from the charity stripe for the game compared to Dayton's 6-for-14.
Saint Joseph's advances to their first Atlantic 10 Tournament Semifinal since 2011, where a Hawk team which only won 11 games all season took Dayton to the wire before falling by three.
Saint Joseph's faces off against St. Bonaventure in Saturday afternoon's A-10 Semifinal with tip-off slated for 1:30 p.m. with national television coverage on CBS Sports Network.
In the most recent Atlantic 10 Tournament showdown between the two teams it was St. Bonaventure who came out on top, winning 71-68 in the 2012 Quarterfinals in Atlantic City. The Bonnies used that win as a platform to win the A-10 Tournament that year and advance to their first NCAA Tournament since 2000.