The 2013-14 St. Joseph’s team accomplished something the famous undefeated 2003-04 team could not pull off.
Behind a balanced scoring attack and another double-double from do-it-all senior forward Halil Kanacevic, the Hawks (24-9) outlasted the full-court press of a swarming VCU (26-8) squad to win the Atlantic 10 final, 65-61.
Kanacevic, who was named the A-10 tournament’s most outstanding player, scored 11 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out four assists. The Staten Island native is one of several Hawks with a unique skillset. Among those is lanky freshman forward DeAndre Bembry who added 13 points, eight assists and four rebounds and was crucial to the Hawks breaking through the Rams’ high-pressure defense.
Seniors Langston Galloway and Ronald Roberts also notched double-figure scoring efforts for the Hawks. Galloway, the third-leading scorer in St. Joes history, scored 19 points on just 11 shots, while Roberts added 15 points and 11 boards.
Phil Martelli’s Hawks, who hadn’t won an A-10 title since 1997, came into the tournament firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble. Close wins over Dayton and St. Bonaventure all-but confirmed a berth, but Sunday’s triumph over VCU sealed the deal.
The loss won’t jeopardize a spot in the tourney for Shaka Smart’s group. The Rams came into the A-10 final with an RPI of 12 and signature wins over ACC champion Virginia and several likely tournament-bound A-10 teams like George Washington (twice), Dayton and Saint Louis.
Rob Brandenberg led the Rams with 18 and Treveon Graham added 15. VCU has lost in the A-10 final in each of its first two seasons in the conference.