WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) men's basketball team clawed their way back into a true battle of mental and physical toughness but ultimately fell just short of the thrilling win that they wanted, losing to Albertus Magnus College (AMC), 88-84, inside the O'Connell Center Tuesday night.
The Blue Jays (13-10, 4-5 GNAC) have lost two of their last three, while the Falcons (14-7, 6-2 GNAC) have won three in a row. USJ slides down to a tie for 8th in the GNAC Standings, with only two games to go.
Freshman guard Chris Childs (Bronx, N.Y.) led the way with 24 points (7-16 FG, 3-3 3FG, 7-8FT), five rebounds and two assists. Childs fouled out with 1:29 left, after missing a well-contested jump shot that would've cut the lead to one. Freshman point guard Delshawn Jackson Jr. (Hartford, Conn.) led the charge late offensively, scoring 22 points (8-11 FT) and dishing out four assists. Junior guard Jahmerikah Green-Younger (Norwalk, Conn.) led the Falcons with 19 points and eight rebounds. Six Falcons had at least four or more rebounds on the night. Junior forward Damian Grant (Waterbury, Conn.) finished with a double-double (17 PTS, 11 REBS).
USJ trailed by 15 with 16 minutes left, and slowly but surely cut into the gap. The Falcons had an answer late though, as they continued to pound the ball inside with relentless aggression. They also converted on big-time free-throws to seal a game filled with passionate play, and more than passionate fans of both teams, filling the O'Connell Center to its capacity.
The Falcons looked to be the aggressor early, applying a 1-2-2 full-court press on every make. Grant scored six quick points to give AMC a 13-9 lead with 14:00 left in the first. USJ struggled to box out in the first few minutes, giving up four offensive rebounds.
AMC relied on gritty, physical man-to-man defense to prevent an easy basket. The game got very physical, particularly inside, but the officials let them play, as Jackson Jr. soared in for a much-needed and-one, while Childs converted from the free-throw line to get Saint Joe's back in striking distance. An 11-3 run tied the game, 24-23, with 7:49 left in the first half.
Both teams got in the penalty with more than six minutes to go, slowing the game down to a crawl. Freshman guard Brad Landry (Wallingford, Conn.) and junior guard Stephen Laffin (West Hartford, Conn.) served as spark plugs off the bench, both contributing with buckets on offense and tough-minded defense.
AMC answered right back though with a 10-3 run to close the half, behind the targeted three-point shooting of Green-Younger, who hit two of his first-half threes in the final seven minutes to give the Falcons a 44-38 halftime lead. He led AMC with 11 points. Childs scored 14 to lead USJ.
The Falcons came out of the half on a 16-7 run, pounding the ball inside, and converting on several and-ones. They took a 60-45 lead with 16:00 to go.
From here, the game continued to slow, as fouls piled up and physicality heightened. With the help of Childs, Jackson Jr., and critical scores out of timeouts from freshman forward Ryan O'Neill (Litchfield, Conn.), Saint Joe's came roaring back, trimming a point or two at a time, until the lead was down to one, 80-79, with 2:00 to play exactly.
The Falcons thrived on getting third, fourth, even fifth shot opportunities simply by sending multiple bigs to the boards. They won the rebound battle, 47-37, but doubled up USJ on the offensive glass, 18-9. It made the difference in the end. Grant converted on a huge putback to go up three, 82-79. Childs fouled out seconds later, and AMC went 6-for-8 from the line in the final minute to close it out. 59 fouls were called in 40 minutes of play, totaling 71 free-throws. Both teams looked tired at times on the line, each shooting 63% from the stripe.
USJ will be back in action on Thursday, February 14, in a road matchup with Suffolk (MA), starting at 7:00 p.m. Albertus Magnus will head to Lasell (MA) for a matchup on Saturday, February 9 at 4:00 p.m.