The Flyers countered with another under-the-basket ballet by Kendall Pollard, who scored 19 points despite taking only 10 shots (he made six). He made seven of nine from the foul line, his improvement this year is two ticks above remarkable.
DAYTON — Sometimes what appears to be a simple task turns into something as diabolic as the Rubik’s Cube or the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.
The Saint Joseph’s University basketball team seemed to be a weakling-on-the-beach pushover for the University of Dayton Flyers heading into Tuesday night’s game at UD Arena.
As Brent Musberger would put it, “The Boys in the Desert (Las Vegas) have UD as a 15 1/2 point favorite.”
After all the SJU Hawks were 10-and-12 overall and were lounging around the bottom of the Atlantic 10 conference standings at 3-and-7.
Coach Phil Martelli didn’t have any double-digit scorers returning from last season’s team and he lost two of his best players to injuries this year before Christmas.
Then, when the Hawks took the floor Tuesday (they were 0-and-4 on Tuesdays this season), they were missing starting forward James Demery, averaging 13.6 points a game and 6.8 rebounds, best on the team.
Would this be another 90-54 zip line ride like the one the Flyers took in demolishing Duquesne Saturday?
Joe Lunardi, the nationally-known Bracketologist, is a broadcaster for Saint Joseph’s and is as loyal to the Hawks as a momma eagle is to her eaglets.
But, during a luncheon appearance in Dayton Tuesday afternoon he said, “Dayton is the best team in the Atlantic 10 and if St. Joe’s beats Dayton tonight I’ll walk back to Philadelphia in my boxer shorts.”
Nobody will ever know if Lunardi wears ‘tidy whities’, boxer shorts or Duluth Buck Nakeds because UD did win — but they didn’t cover the spread and the Hawks clung tightly to the Flyers’ baggy shorts most of the way.
It was UD 77, Saint Joseph’s 70. But it was 32-32 at halftime and it was 66-63, Flyers, with 3:42 left.
Saint Joseph’s guard Lamarr Kimble wore No. 0 on his maroon uniform but the 6-foot-0 sophomore guard from Philadelphia was far from a zero on the floor.
His ‘’3’ at 3:42 pulled the Hawks to within three at 66-63, en route to a career-high 25 points. That’s no shock because he averages 15.2 and scored 24 in his team’s overtime loss at home Saturday to Fordham.
After the game, UD coach Archie Miller called Kimble one of the best players in the league, “And he was the main reason Saint Joseph’s was in the game all the way.”
The Flyers countered with another under-the-basket ballet by Kendall Pollard, who scored 19 points despite taking only 10 shots (he made six).
Most importantly, he made seven of nine from the foul line and his improvement at the foul line this year is two ticks above remarkable. His first three seasons he made fans shudder when he walked to the foul line and clanked free throws.
This year he is 64 for 95, which is only 67 per cent, nothing to rival Rick Barry or Bill Sharman, former NBA free-throw shooting gurus, but it is vast improvement.
He made his first five Tuesday, then missed two straight at the four-minute mark with the Flyers leading, 66-60. He made up for those misses with 0:19 left by making two straight to finish off the Hawks.
“He has worked very hard on his free throws, as the entire team has,” said Miller. “And it is important for Kendall because he gets to the line so much.”
Pollard agrees he has worked diligently on making free throws and said, “You don’t want to lose in practice.” At the end of practices, the Flyers practice free throws by staging one-against-one contests and they keep records.
Asked where he is in the standings, Pollard smiled and said, “Sixth.” But he is making them in games lately when they count.
It was not Deadeye Night for the Flyers. They started the game 4 for 16 and trailed 14-11. And they made only two of their first 10 three-point attempts.
By halftime they were 13 for 36 (36.1 percent) and they were 4 for 12 from the three-point line.
Charles Cooke, who scored 16, buried a three with seven seconds left in the half to give the Flyers a 32-29 lead. Alas, Kimble, that huge thorne, threw home a 30-footer at the buzzer to give Saint Joseph’s a 32-32 tie.
As usual, guard Scoochie Smith became warm and fuzzy in the second half after scoring only two in the first half on 1 of 6 shooting. But he had five assists.
In the second half he scored 11 to finish with 13, added three more assists for eight, and was big in the dying moments. With the Flyers up only 66-63, Smith found Xeyrius Williams breaking toward the hoop and fed him a special delivery pass for an easy basket. Next time down the floor Smith drilled a three-point and the lead blossomed from 66-63 to 71-63 and there were Hawk feathers all over the floor.
And Joe Lundardi was able to walk to the team bus with his belt firmly holding up his pants.