Behind stellar performances from seniors Isaiah Miles and Papa Ndao, the Hawks would do just that. Miles poured in 26 points, while Ndao hits four timely three-pointers to fuel Saint Joseph’s 82-79 victory over Dayton to advance to the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship on Sunday.
“It’s kind of special, but in a way it’s just another day,” Ndao said. “I feel like until we win a championship, I feel like every game is just a game, just to get there. It’s a push to what we want basically.”
After scoring 15 first half points, Miles continued to be the hot hand early in the second half, making three free throws to put the Hawks up 53-42. Miles would go cold from there, however, as Dayton began to storm back.
The Flyers cut the Hawks’ lead to just 55-52 with 8:39 remaining, but Ndao would step up in the clutch, draining a three to extend the Saint Joseph’s lead to six. Moments later, Dayton would again narrow Saint Joseph’s lead to just three, only to have Ndao connect on consecutive threes to push the Hawks’ lead back to nine.
“Every shot that he took today was a big shot,” DeAndre’ Bembry said of Ndao’s performance. “It was right after Dayton hit a three or Dayton got a steal or something like that, and that’s just the confidence he has in himself. I’m just happy for Papa. We know that he has that in him, and like I said, he hit shot after shot for us tonight.”
Saint Joseph’s built its lead to 10 with just 23 seconds remaining, but Dayton continued to make things uncomfortable for the Hawks, cutting their lead to just five with 12 seconds left.
The Hawks would hang on in the end, however, picking up an 82-79 win to advance to the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship and take one step closer to punching their ticket to the Big Dance.
Miles led all scorers with 26 points to go with nine rebounds, while fellow senior Aaron Brown pitched in 16 points.
But the big story in this one was the clutch performance of Ndao. A fifth-year senior from Senegal, Ndao missed the entirety of the 2014-2015 season due to medical issues.
Now healthy and with his collegiate career winding down, Ndao seized an opportunity Saturday, scoring 14 points and thwarting Dayton’s comeback efforts on multiple occasions.
“Like last October, I was standing in front of a doctor and the doctor wasn’t talking about when he would be back to play,” Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli said. “The doctor was talking about if he could get out of bed and function…So to have him have this opportunity, now, he can frustrate you, because you do think every shot is going in, and he does, and if you tell him to make an adjustment, he’s got the answer. So good for him.”
With the win, Saint Joseph’s advances to the A-10 Tournament final on Sunday against VCU, where the Hawks will look to take their NCAA Tournament fate out of the hands of the Selection Committee.
By: Kyle Babcock
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