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Saint Joseph's six-game winning streak halted at George Washington

Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli had reason to be upset with the officials after baffling calls went against his team in their close loss at George Washington.
Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images

George Washington continued their sizzling home form on Senior Night at the Smith Center as they put an end to Saint Joseph's six-game winning streak, beating the Hawks 76-71 on Wednesday evening.

In a game which was played at a high level, there were several momentum swings in both halves. Early on, Saint Joseph's had the upper hand as they jumped out to a 10-4 advantage with Langston Galloway knocking down two three-pointers in the opening three and a half minutes.

George Washington (22-7, 10-5 Atlantic 10) countered the Hawks quick start by going on a 9-0 run with Maurice Creek's three-pointer giving the Colonials a 13-10 advantage.

Halil Kanacevic went to the bench about eight minutes into the first half after committing two personal fouls in the space of 14 seconds. Foul trouble, along with the game's officiating as a whole, would be thrust into the spotlight as the game went on.

After Kanacevic went to the bench, George Washington switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense which generated a 15-2 run as the Hawks struggled to attack the Colonials zone look. Joe McDonald's three-pointer gave George Washington a game-high 14 point advantage with 5:32 to play in the opening half.

As the game neared halftime, Saint Joseph's (21-8, 11-4 A-10) forced a few turnovers from George Washington which led to easy buckets. Combined with an improved attack against the George Washington zone, the Hawks were back in business as they ended the first half on a 16-0 run to take a 32-30 lead into the locker room.

Saint Joseph's continued to carry their momentum into the first three minutes of the second half, outscoring the Colonials 8-3 with a Ronald Roberts lay-up giving St. Joe's a 40-33 lead.

With the Hawks holding an eight-point lead just before the under 16 minute media timeout, the game took an unexpected turn. Kanacevic was called for his fourth foul with 15:35 left on a debatable blocking call. In reaction to the questionable call, DeAndre Bembry looked down and put his hand over his face in disbelief over the call. It was an innocuous enough reaction. One of the officials took great offense to this however and whistled Bembry for a technical foul, granting the Colonials four free throws.

George Washington only made two of the four free throws, but the Colonials possession would continue as the ball went out of bounds off of a Hawk after the fourth free throw. Seconds later, Isaiah Miles was called for another highly debatable foul and Creek knocked down both free throws, turning it into a four-point possession and cutting the Saint Joseph's lead in half.

Saint Joseph's initially weathered the storm and even extended their lead to 9 after a thunderous dunk plus a free throw from Roberts gave the Hawks a 54-45 lead with 11 minutes remaining.

Thirteen seconds later Roberts picked up his fourth foul, relegating the Hawks senior front-court duo of Kanacevic and Roberts to the bench with over ten minutes to play.

George Washington took full advantage of the Hawks being without their senior front-court leaders and eventually took the lead with 7:30 in the game on a lay-up from Kevin Larsen.

The Hawks front-court pair checked back into the game after the under 8 minute media timeout, but one of them would check out of the game for good soon after. With 6:55 left in the contest Kanacevic fouled out of the game, ending a frustrating evening for the big man.

Saint Joseph's struggled to find a rhythm on offense in the final minutes, with McDonald knocking down a pair of jumpers which gave the Colonials a 67-60 lead with 1:36 on the clock, putting the game out of the Hawks reach as they simply could not get enough stops late to make a comeback bid.

Bembry had an impressive game for the Hawks as he led all scorers with 22 points and also led all players with eight assists, tying a career-high in dimes for the Hawks high-flying freshman. Roberts chipped in with 16 points and 8 rebounds while Chris Wilson knocked down three shots from beyond the arc on his way to finishing with 14 points. After a hot start, Galloway cooled off considerably and finished with 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting from the field.

George Washington also had four players in double-figures led by Creek, the graduate transfer from Indiana, who netted 20 points in the Colonials victory. McDonald added 18 points including four three-pointers while Patricio Garino scored 17 points and Villanova transfer Isaiah Armwood finished with a double-double after scoring 15 points and corralling 11 rebounds.

Saint Joseph's closes our their regular season schedule on Sunday afternoon as they face-off against inner-city rival La Salle at Hagan Arena on Senior Day with tip-off scheduled for 4 p.m. in the game between the teams that will count in the Big Five standings for this season. Saint Joseph's beat La Salle 75-64 in the teams earlier match-up this season as all five Hawk starters finished in double figures. A win will allow Saint Joseph's to clinch the second seed in next week's Atlantic 10 Tournament, taking place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Saint Joseph's would have had a chance to possibly win the Atlantic 10 regular season crown outright had they won against George Washington after Saint Louis lost their third straight game on Wednesday night, this time at the hands of Dayton. Instead, the Hawks can clinch a share of the Atlantic 10 regular season championship with a win on Sunday over La Salle and a loss by Saint Louis against Massachusetts.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, poor officiating impacted yet another A-10 clash and was a factor in preventing them from grabbing a chance at that opportunity, although the Hawks had their chances to overcome the adversity and grab an important win.. Poor officiating in the Atlantic 10 has been a problem for many years. It is truly a shame that so many contests are impacted by the men wearing the striped shirts instead of the players on the court.

With the enormous success the Atlantic 10 has had on the hardwood this season, as well as with their marketing campaign "Who Wants Next", it is time for the conference to step up and get competent officials who match the ability of the players on the court.

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