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Blue Jays Rally, Fall Just Short In NCAA Tournament First Round

Blue Jays Rally, Fall Just Short In NCAA Tournament First Round

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The storybook season has come to an end for the No. 14 University of Saint Joseph (USJ) men's basketball team, which lost to the Statesmen of Hobart College (HC), in a frantic first-round game of the NCAA Tournament, 78-74, inside Blake Arena, on the campus of Springfield College Friday night.

It's fitting that second-year head coach Jim Calhoun, a 2005 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, coached the Blue Jays in their first-ever NCAA Tournament game in the 'Birthplace of Basketball', but the odds were not in USJ's favor, shooting 37% from the floor (23-62), the second-lowest percentage all season (RIC, 33%). It is also no coincidence that the Statesmen, who advance to the NCAA Second Round with the win, lead the country in field-goal percentage defense at exactly 37%. Still, Hobart committed 23 turnovers, but the Blue Jays could not capitalize on enough of them early in the game to get ahead.

Hobart had four starters in double figures, including sophomore guard Dan Masino (Fairport, N.Y.), who scored a team-high 17 points (6-12 FG), including an impossible fadeaway baseline jumper with the shot clock winding down to keep it a two-possession game. Senior guard Tucker Lescoe (Denver, Pa.) became the greatest three-point shooter in Liberty League (LL) history Friday night, knocking down four three balls to aid the cause. Senior forward Sam Allen (Lewisburg, Pa.) had a few clutch threes of his own and 13 points.

Saint Joseph was led by sophomore guard Jaecee Martin (Hartford, Conn.), who bounced back from his struggles in the Blue Jays' Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship game with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He also added five rebounds and three assists. Junior forward Jordan Powell (Middletown, Conn.) had 15 points and three boards. Freshman forward Jalen Samuels (Franklin, Mass.) came up clutch with nine points on 7-for-8 from the foul line (64% on the season). Sophomore guard Delshawn Jackson Jr. (Hartford, Conn.) [Pictured] was defended well by Hobart, but also missed some shots in his range, finishing with nine points (3-15 FG, 2-6 3FG).

GAME INFORMATION
Score: Saint Joseph 74, Hobart 78
Records: USJ (26-3), HC (22-5)
Location: Blake Arena | Springfield College | Springfield, Mass.

PLAYER QUOTE
 [Jordan Powell]
"The crowd, the anticipation, we knew we couldn't let the emotion bother us, but it was there. It kind of took us off our focus, and unfortunately we didn't get it done. I am just happy and blessed to be here, and I am already ready for next year."

PLAYER QUOTE [Jaecee Martin]
"For me coming from Sacred Heart, not playing that much, getting a second chance with Coach Calhoun, it was everything, especially playing with guys that I grew up with around the neighborhood. I went from watching coach on TV with Kemba [Walker], to having an opportunity like this, and I couldn't pass it up. I am very grateful to have a coach like this and teammates like I had this year."

COACH QUOTE [Jim Calhoun]
"Whether you are 27 or 77, it never feels good. I give credit to Hobart for playing for very good defense on us. It was a very difficult game. We shot as poorly as we have all year, and you have to go home with disappointment, but certainly a great deal of pride. I am so incredibly proud of these guys, 26-3, and we brought [men's] basketball here 16 months ago."  

KEY MOMENTS

  • The Statesmen appeared to be the less antsy team early, as Lescoe opened things up with a three ball from well beyond the arc. Hobart also crashed the glass for a few second-chance opportunities. 'JC' and 'DJ' hit a few contested jumpers to keep the Blue Jays afloat. 9-8 USJ with 15:37 to go in the first half.
  • Saint Joseph picked it up defensively, forcing a shot clock violation with 13:01, capped by a blocked three by DJ in the corner. On the next possession, freshman guard Taleon Martin (Springfield, Mass.) showed his defensive prowess, locking up Lescoe to force an offensive foul. The Blue Jays held a 17-14 lead with 11:24 to go in half number one.
  • HC struggled to hang onto the basketball in the first half, turning it over seven times in the first 12 minutes, including three possessions in a row. The USJ defense swarmed the inside game of the Statesmen, but their three-point shooting kept them in the fight. Three different players knocked one down, the USJ lead just one, 20-19 with 7:58 left in the first period.
  • The pace of the game was key. Hobart, which thrives in the half court, versus Saint Joseph, which flourishes on the fastbreak. It was a Hobart-like game in the first half. Only six fastbreak points for USJ, a team that is used to scoring in transition by the dozen. The Statesmen also dominated on the glass, outrebounding the Blue Jays 24-15 in half number one, putting Saint Joseph in foul trouble, as JC picked up two fouls, forcing him to sit the final 5:29 of the half. DJ, Powell, and Samuels all picked up two as well.  HC's toughness and experience showed, ending the period on an 18-5 run (primarily from the foul line), taking a 34-25 lead at the half. Martin still was the only player in double figures, scoring 11 despite the foul trouble.
  • Down nine in the biggest test in program history, the Blue Jays amped up the defensive pressure. The Statesmen went more than seven minutes without scoring, until Masino drilled a difficult pullup three with the shot clock winding down. The Blue Jays, who took 26 free throws in the second half alone, got two more free throws to keep it close, 45-39, with 10:55 to go.
  • The three-point shooting for Hobart once again kept them afloat, as Massino hit another, as did Lescoe and Allen, many coming with mere seconds on the shot clock. Saint Joseph refused to quit though despite being undersized, forcing deflection after deflection, some coming in the backcourt. A double-team by DJ in the backcourt after a missed shot led to a steal and slam for Samuels on the run with just over nine minutes to go, starting a trend of key defensive plays by the Blue Jays. In the second half, it quickly became Hobart with the foul trouble, and USJ made them pay. Clutch second-half free throws kept it tight. It was still a six-point game, 58-52, with 5:40 left in the ballgame.
  • The stars always show up when it matters most, and the packed Blake Arena crowd was treated to a show. DJ threaded the needle in transition to sophomore guard Tyree Mitchell (East Hartford, Conn.) for a layin, which led to a foul and a pair of free-throws. Later, Massino hit that impossible fadeaway from the corner to the delight of the Hobart fans, and the dismay of the Blue Jay faithful. Lescoe hit another late-shot clock three to make it a five-point game, 63-58 with 3:30 to go. Samuels kept the pressure on the Hobart big men, taking the ball to the rack, and knocking down one clutch free throw after another. He was 7-for-8 in total, all in the second half.
  • Down 66-64 with 1:20 to play, USJ attempted a full-court trap on a made free throw. For the second time in the final stretch of the game, freshman forward Daniel Cook (Rochester, N.Y.) converted on an old-fashioned three point play as a result for Hobart. Saint Joseph knocked down a few shots, but the Statesmen made the free throws that mattered at the end. The Blue Jays hit a few more shots to cut it to three, but never closer in that final minute.

NUMBER TO KNOW

3 – Saint Joseph had a season-low three assists on the game on 23 made baskets. JC Martin had all three.

NOTES

  • The loss snaps USJ's 25-game winning streak, the second longest in all of Division III.
  • Hobart outrebounded Saint Joseph, 42-31.
  • USJ turned defense into offense, outscoring the Statesmen 25-5 in points off turnovers.
  • To much surprise, the Statesmen are now 4-1 this season when they commit at least 20 turnovers. They had 23 Friday night, tied for the second most all season.
  • The Blue Jays scored a season-low 25 points in the first half. Their previous low was 27 against Rhode Island College, the first game of the season, on November 16.
  • This is the sixth time Hobart has hit 10 threes in a game (11-29). They are 6-0 in those games.
  • Saint Joseph is now 0-1 all-time against Hobart, and 0-1 in the NCAA Tournament.

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