Saint Joseph’s 70, Memphis 58
NEW YORK (AP)—Pat Carroll and John Bryant have won 96 games in four seasons at Saint Joseph’s. They want to leave school with a title.
“If we can end with a championship off this year, that would just top off the year,” said Carroll, who scored 13 of his 24 points in the second half of Saint Joseph’s 70-58 victory over Memphis on Tuesday night in the NIT semifinals.
The Hawks (24-11), who had to win four games just to get to Madison Square Garden, will face South Carolina for the tournament championship on Thursday.
The Gamecocks beat Maryland 75-67 in the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader.
Saint Joseph’s has won five straight Atlantic 10 regular-season titles, but Carroll and Bryant haven’t enjoyed a tournament victory.
They got close last year, when Saint Joseph’s advanced to the NCAA regional finals behind the star guard duo of Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. Those guys are now in the NBA, and the Hawks are in the NIT.
When they started the season 3-6, it looked as though the postseason would be totally out of reach. But Saint Joseph’s is 21-5 since Jan. 1.
“We don’t want to just be remembered for last year,” Carroll said. “Coach (Phil) Martelli set out to make Saint Joseph’s a good program, not just a good team off of 2004.
“This is more satisfying to us.”
Carroll, the Atlantic 10 co-player of the year, was 6-of-9 from 3-point range—including 3-of-4 in the second half, when the Hawks pulled away behind 56.3-percent shooting.
“Even though people look at us as the small school—little Saint Joe’s— we can play with anyone,” said Carroll, whose night started with an airball.
Dwayne Jones added 13 points and 14 rebounds—eight offensive—for Saint Joseph’s.
Memphis won three times at home but couldn’t get past the Hawks, who are on the longest postseason run in school history.
Bryant grabbed seven rebounds for Saint Joseph’s and continues to give the Hawks a lift since returning from a broken arm.
“I only have one more game to go in my college career,” Bryant said. “Pain does not matter anymore.”
Rodney Carney scored 21 points, 17 in the second half, and freshman guard Darius Washington Jr. added 14 for Memphis (22-16).
Washington finished 23-of-26 from the free throw line in the NIT. It was his two misses with no time remaining in the Conference USA championship game that sent Memphis to this tournament instead of the NCAA.
“The only people that can’t recover from that are the people that let it bother them,” Washington said.
Memphis used a 12-5 run during the first 5:30 of the second half to make it 37-35. But the Hawks responded with a 10-2 spurt to push their lead back to 10 points.
The Tigers used pressure to get back into the game after trailing 32-23 at halftime. But the Hawks’ shooting secured the victory.
After Washington made two free throws, Carroll responded with a 3 to make it 40-35.
Dwayne Lee made a pretty pass inside to Robert Ferguson for a layup that made it 46-37.
Carroll took over with two 3s that pushed the advantage to 66-55 with 1:57 remaining.
After the Saint Joseph’s run, Memphis never got closer than six points the rest of the way. The Hawks’ defense was the reason.
“We just shot bad shots all game,” Tigers coach John Calipari said. “Saint Joe’s made us play the way we played.”
Memphis averaged 71.8 points, but was held under 60 for the seventh time this season. Saint Joseph’s is 22-2 when holding opponents to 60 points or fewer, and the Tigers are 3-13 when they fail to reach 70.
Saint Joseph’s led at halftime for the fourth straight time. The only tournament game the Hawks trailed at the break was the opener against Hofstra.
The Hawks were behind for just 51 seconds of the first half, and have been ahead for all but 17 minutes in the NIT—nearly 12 of which came against Hofstra.
Memphis looked ready to run through the NIT, winning their three preliminary games by an average of 20 points. But the Tigers’ third trip to this Final Four in five years ended early.
They had won nine straight in the tournament and 12 of 13, taking the title in 2002 over South Carolina.
The Hawks are one of six teams with at least 20 wins in the 2005 calendar year. Louisville and Illinois, NCAA Final Four teams, also have done it. … Memphis was without junior guard Jeremy Hunt, who tore a left knee ligament against Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals.