Its a formula that isnt always easy to execute, but when Saint Josephs can sink open threes and run its offense through multiple facilitators, it wins Atlantic 10 games.
St. Joes, which hosted Tuesday night's A-10 tournament opener vs. 12th-seeded Charlotte, shot 40 percent from three in nine regular-season conference wins and 26 percent in seven losses.
On Tuesday, the Hawks made 10 of 21 threes en route to a wire-to-wire 80-64 win over the 49ers that advanced them to an A-10 quarterfinal meeting against St. Bonaventure at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
Aside from draining looks both open and contested from beyond the arc, what most impressed head coach Phil Martelli was his teams balance and ability to do some of its best work as the game slowed down.
That was a halfcourt game and we scored 80 points, Martelli said. Our turnovers werent too bad. We shot 68 percent in the second half. We grinded a little bit. Im not a fan of calling plays every time down the court but we called a play every time down.
In the opening 20 minutes, SJU's effective halfcourt sets ran through vocal 6-foot-8 sophomore point forward Halil Kanacevic, who accounted for 10 of the Hawks first 13 points, scoring seven of his own and assisting on a three-pointer.
Kanacevic who averaged 5.2 assists in the Hawks' nine regular-season conference wins and just 2.9 in their seven A-10 losses finished the first half with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks to go with three assists, one of which was a buzzer-beating alley-oop to uber-athletic sophomore forward Ronald Roberts.
And while Carl Tay Jones was quiet as St. Joes built a 34-27 halftime lead, backup freshman point guard Chris Wilson served as a second distributor to Kanacevic, dishing four first-half assists in 12 minutes without committing a turnover.
I thought Chris Wilson allowed us to run some offense at the right pace in the first half, Martelli said. The guys off the bench, Chris Wilson and Ron Roberts, had a big impact on the game.
The Hawks carried Kanacevics and Roberts half-ending energy into the second stanza, making six of their first seven shots to expand a seven-point lead to 14 with 13:47 remaining.
But as St. Joes missed a pair of threes and turned the ball over, Charlotte scored nine points in a row to cut the Hawks lead to 52-47.
Thats when Jones emerged.
For St. Joes, the second-half theme was that any time Charlotte cut it close, Jones gave the Hawks much-needed breathing room.
With the score 52-47, Jones hit a three to turn a two-possession game into an eight-point St. Joes lead.
At 55-49, Jones, who scored 18 of his game-high 23 points after intermission, answered a Charlotte field goal with another three.
Up 69-64 with three minutes left, Jones converted a traditional three-point play to again put St. Joes up by eight, and from there it was never again close.
First half, I was just taking what they gave me, I wasnt trying to force anything, Jones said. In the second half, they gave me a lot of stuff so I took it, know what Im saying?
Martelli wasn't too impressed I thought he was just OK, to be honest, he said and cited a non-winning decision by Jones to pass to a guarded Roberts with a few seconds left on the shot clock late in the game.
Roberts, as he is prone to do, made a miraculous bank shot as the clock buzzed, but the possession brought to mind some of the improvements Martelli hopes his team can make in order to advance deep into the A-10 tournament.
Jones is a work in progress, just like our team, Martelli said. But I think any time we can get out of a game and Tay doesnt have any turnovers, I think thats significant. And I liked the fact that there were plays where he wasnt just settling for jumpers ... he took the ball at the teeth of their defense.
I feel the defense kind of plays my jumper too much, Jones added. And it lets me get to the lane and do what I do inside the lane.
The win gives St. Joes a chance to avenge a devastating double-overtime loss to St. Bonaventure in the regular-season finale in Olean. The Bonnies came back to tie that game at the end of regulation and then again at the end of overtime after being down six points with 20 seconds to go. It was a meaningful loss for the Hawks. Had they won, they would have secured a first-round bye in the Atlantic 10 tourney and not had to deal with Charlotte Tuesday night.
Now we just have to prepare for St. Bonaventure and get a little revenge, I guess, Hawks guard Langston Galloway said.
His coach had a very different take on the R-word.
Revenge is wasted energy, Martelli said, in regard to being able to play both Charlotte and St. Bonaventure a second time after losing regular-season meetings to both teams.
They didnt do anything to us. Charlotte didnt come in and talk about our families, they came in and played a basketball game and were better than us, and last week Bonaventure was better than us.
"You have to have proper emotion at this point of the year. You have to be properly nervous. You gotta be on edge. Revenge is not part of this.
Notes: Neither St. Joe's nor Charlotte made a free throw in the first half, the teams were a combined 0 for 4 from the line ... The Hawks were out-rebounded by 15 last Wednesday at St. Bonaventure but came back to out-rebound Charlotte by 10 Tuesday night ... Galloway went 3 for 7 from three against Charlotte and is third in the nation in three-point field goal percentage, at 47.5.
E-mail Corey Seidman at email@example.com.