Saint Joe's wins a classic A-10 Championship

By Jason Schott - @JESchott19

The Saint Louis Hawks upset the VCU Rams 65-61 in the Atlantic 10 Championship game on Sunday at Barclays Center.

This is Saint Joseph's third Atlantic 10 title, with the other two coming in 1986 and 1997, and are now 3-3 all-time in title game appearances, with their last one coming in 2008. Saint Joe's also won two Middle Atlantic titles and one East Coast title. They are now 37-29 all-time in 31 appearances in the A-10 Championship, and have mad it every year since joining the conference in 1982-83. Their 37 tournament wins is second to Temple's 53.

St. Joseph's Head coach Phil Martelli is now 25-17 all-time in A-10 Championship games, the most among active A-10 coaches and second most all-time. 

Saint Joe's started this one out strong and held a 28-24 lead at halftime. In the first half, it was apparent that VCU was not pressing as much as in the first half of their prior two games. When I asked VCU Coach Shaka Smart about this, he said they only press off a basket, and since they only had 24 points and 11 first half baskets, that limited the press.

In the second half, VCU found their rhythm, led by Rob Brandenburg, who hit threes to tie the game at 35 and 40, and Treveon Graham hit a three to give VCU the lead at 43-40 with 12:38 left.

VCU had the lead or the game was tied until a Langston Galloway three-pointer with 2:28 left gave Saint Joseph's a 57-54 lead. Galloway gave Saint Joe's what turned into a insurmountable lead at 61-55 with a couple of free throws with 54 seconds left.

Saint Joseph's was led by Atlantic 10 Tournament MVP Halil Kanacevic, who hails from Staten Island. Kanacevic had 11 points and 14 rebounds, and it was his sixth double-double of the season. He set an Atlantic 10 Tournament record with 43 in the series.

Kanacevic was asked if he said anything to motivate his team in the second half and he said, "Nothing. I had a time where I was frustrated and my emotions almost got the best of me and these guys did a great job just keeping me in it. So it's not always me. We've got a very good group of personalities here and he (Martelli) does a great job managing these personalities. I'm the one that's emotional, he's a little quiet, helps me a lot. They are my sound boward. Sometimes I don't say the right things and they help me a lot, so give credit to all these guys.

Also for St. Joe's, Langston Galloway had 19 points on 5-for-11 shooting, 4 rebounds, and an assist. DeAndre Bembry had 13 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds, and Ronald Roberts had a double double with 15 points on a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, and 11 rebounds. Saint Joe's got all 65 points from their starters.

VCU was led by Rob Brandenberg with 18 points (7-15 FG, 3-7 on 3-pt) and 4 rebounds. Treveon Graham had 15 points on a disappointing 4-for-12 from the field. As a team, VCU shot just 36.9 percent for the game, making 24 of 65 shot attempts.

VCU Coach Shaka Smart said of the loss, "It's difficlut. It's a close loss in a conference championship you want to win. It's not really any more difficult because of what happened last year (losing in the A-10 Championship Game to St. Louis). It's just you want to win this year in the present moment. Thirteen teams came up here to win, just two of them were left today at 1:00. We felt like we had a really good opportunity to be the team that won it, but St. Joe's obviously had something to say about that and they played better than us."

jayschott19@gmail.com