WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) men's basketball team showed its depth today, as nearly half of the Blue Jays' points came off the bench, taking care of the Norwich University (NU) Cadets in style, 78-60, inside the O'Connell Center Saturday.
The Blue Jays (11-8, 2-3 GNAC) have won their last two conference games (both at home), while the Cadets (6-11, 0-4 GNAC) have lost six straight games. Freshman guard Chris Childs (Bronx, N.Y.) set the tone offensively with a game-high and career-high 27 points (10-18 FG, 6-13 3FG). Freshman guard Delshawn Jackson Jr. continued to impress on both ends (15 PTS, 8 ASTS, 2 REBS), while sophomore forward Christopher Bryant (Crestview, Fla.) was strong inside for NU, scoring 12 points (4-9 FG) and grabbing nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Jesse Davis (Woodinville, Wash.) also scored 12 for the Cadets.
It was all about transition scoring and work off the bench for USJ, who outscored the Cadets 38-10 in bench points, and 18-2 in fastbreak points. It was all that they needed to keep a double-digit lead throughout the second half.
The Cadets kept the pace slow and methodical early, and it played into their hands. Sophomore guard Kyle Booth (Northfield, Vt.) had two impressive middle drives for scores, while the Blue Jays countered with a gritty attack on the offensive glass. Jackson Jr. followed his own shot among the bigs in the paint for an offensive rebound and put-back. NU still led early, 8-7, with 14:11 left in the first half.
USJ got some transition opportunities for the first time, as sophomore forward Mike Sagay (Bloomfield, Conn.) found freshman forward Jake Sullivan (Branford, Conn.) for an easy layup, while Childs got into the action with a smooth mid-range jumper. Sagay got his chance for another vintage tomahawk slam off a steal and pass ahead. One play later, freshman center Nadir Dixon-Thompson (Dorchester, Mass.) broke free in the lane for a two-hand jam off a pass from the top of the key, and all of a sudden, the Blue Jays had completely changed the momentum of the game. USJ led 19-12 with 9:55 left in the first half.
The Blue Jays relied on good denial off the ball in their man-to-man defense to get a lot of scoring opportunities, forcing the Cadets to throw tough passes. Even the ones where a Cadet appeared to be open were tipped or deflected by USJ defenders. Saint Joe's held NU scoreless for nearly four minutes, leading 21-12 with 7:46 to play in the first.
Saint Joe's opened up the can in the next three minutes with back-to-back-to-back threes (Davis, O'Neill, Childs). The Cadets wouldn't go away, battling back on offensive to try and stem the tide. Freshman guard Caleb Casinas (Aiea, Hawaii) made a series of tough mid-range jumpshots, but the Blue Jays just had too many weapons. USJ found ways to get the ball inside and get to the foul line (7-8 FT first half). They also hit big threes in transition (5-11 3FG first half). The Blue Jays led by 14, 40-26, but like the Cadets did the whole first period, they kept on coming. Davis made the first three of the half for NU, and the lead was down to 11, 40-29, going into the locker room. Childs led all scorers with 11 off the bench in the first half, while Saint Joe's as a whole assisted on 10 of their 14 baskets in the first 20.
The Cadets came out of the locker room with a quick five-point spurt to trim the gap. Another Childs three kept the lead at nine, 43-34. It was here where USJ took control. An 11-0 run behind a three from Jackson Jr., a transition basket from Sullivan, an extra effort play from freshman forward Sam Majek (Brooklyn, Conn.) inside, and another mid-range gem from Childs. The Blue Jays took a 20-point lead, 54-34, with 15:33 to go in the second half.
Just when you thought it was over though, it was anything but. The Cadets came roaring back again on a 12-4 run, cutting the gap to 12, 58-46 with 10:50 to play. Booth, along with senior guard Daniel Haimes (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) converted on open opportunities from deep and inside. NU also forced the Blue Jays to commit seven fouls with still plenty of time left, meaning they would be shooting free throws on every foul the rest of the way. Once again though, Childs was there to make a three just as it appeared the momentum might shift. A three from the right wing kept the lead at 15, 63-48, with 7:58 to go.
Childs would single-handedly end any hope of a comeback doing what he does best; nailing three after three. Childs connected from deep four times in four minutes, and with the lead ballooned to 22 points, the Blue Jays closed out their second conference win of the season.
USJ is back in action on the road against Suffolk (MA) Thursday, January 24, at 7:00 p.m. Norwich will head home for a matchup with Emmanuel (MA) on Wednesday, January 23, at 7:00 p.m.