PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The Saint Joseph’s crowd was rocking with good reason. The Hawks rallied all the way back from 17 points down to lead No. 19 Gonzaga by six with 4 minutes left.
Rooting for the Hawks’ biggest win in four seasons, the front row of the raucous student section unfurled a banner of SJU’s famed slogan: “The Hawk Will Never Die!”
The celebration was premature and so were any thoughts the Bulldogs were down for good.
Matt Bouldin scored 16 points, including a 3 late in regulation to spur a comeback and the go-ahead free throws in overtime, to help Gonzaga hold off the Hawks 70-65 on Thursday night.
“We just trusted each other,” Bouldin said. “I don’t think we ever thought we were through.”
Austin Daye scored 17 points and David Pendergraft had 13 for the Bulldogs (6-1), who needed a late rally in regulation for the thrilling win and to take the overall series lead in the battle of the small Jesuit universities.
Pat Calathes led the Hawks (3-2) with 24 points and Ahmad Nivins scored 14. The Hawks trailed by 17 in the first half but took the lead late in the second.
Even with the frenzied sellout crowd rallying on the Hawks, they failed to hold on down the stretch in regulation thanks to a series of poor shot selections and turnovers. It all came back to cost them in overtime.
“It hurts,” Calathes said. “I thought we had it won. We let them come down and score and we were just making dumb mistakes on defense. We kind of gave that one away.”
Nivins missed two free throws with 1:32 left in overtime and the game tied at 61.
Bouldin made both of his attempts from the line on the next possession and Daye pumped his fist when his jumper gave the Bulldogs a four-point lead. Micah Downs made two free throws with 20 seconds left to seal the win.
Bouldin gave all the credit to coach Mark Few’s late inspirational pep talk on the bench.
“He just told us we could do it and that he believed in us,” he said. “He said he knew we could do it but we just had to execute.”
With Gonzaga clinging to a two-point lead and only 30 seconds left in regulation, Jeremy Pargo was whistled for an offensive foul. Tasheed Carr, a 55 percent free-throw shooter, made two from the line that tied the game at 59-all with 10.3 seconds to go.
The Bulldogs missed two shots to send the game into OT.
Once in overtime, Gonzaga denied Saint Joseph’s its first win over a Top 25 team since March 2004. For a few minutes late in the game, a victory seemed on its way to Hawk Hill.
Calathes screamed in celebration after he was fouled on a thunderous baseline jam in front of a crazed student section. He made the free throw for a 53-47 lead with 5:07 left.
The celebration was short lived.
“I never thought we had the game in our grasp,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said.
The cross country series has become one of the more competitive rivalries for both programs. The series was knotted at two wins each and none of the first four games (all played since 2001) had been decided by more than eight points.
The Bulldogs, who played a near-flawless first 10 minutes of the game, looked lost most of the rest of the way. They played loose with the ball throughout the second half and slumped in a 1-for-15 stretch from the field that saw the Hawks rally and take the lead.
The Hawks went ahead for the first time when Rob Ferguson’s 3-pointer made it 43-42 and sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy.
The Bulldogs turned the ball over on two straight possessions and Calathes converted the second into a layup for a 45-42 lead. Calathes would make two free throws to give him 19 points and put the Hawks up five.
“It’s clear to me we have the makings of a good team,” Martelli said. “The maturity level needs to rise quickly.”
The 3,200-seat Alumni Fieldhouse was sold out as usual and absolutely rocking in the biggest game to hit Hawk Hill since Jameer Nelson and Delonte West formed the backcourt for the top-ranked Hawks four seasons ago. Students snaked around the gym more than two hours before tip to snare the best bleacher seat in the house and the tight game gave this one a late-season atmosphere.
They had little reason to cheer for early.
Gonzaga played nearly 12 minutes without a turnover to open the game and raced to a 29-12 lead midway through the half.
“I was glad we at least jumped out that way,” Few said.