Saint Joseph's 78, Cincinnati 76
SPOKANE, Wash. -- A dunk at the buzzer by Cincinnati's Octavius Ellis was ruled just a tick too late Friday night, allowing No. 8-seeded Saint Joseph's to escape with a 78-76 NCAA Tournament win over the No. 9 Bearcats, the first for coach Phil Martelli and his program since 2004.
DeAndre' Bembry scored 25 points and Isaiah Miles added 19 more as Saint Joseph's (28-7) survived a game of runs, but it was the furthest thing from easy as the Bearcats (22-11) kept coming, answering every Hawks' spurt with one of their own, usually keyed by the 3-point shooting of Jacob Evans (26 points) or Farad Cobb (12 points).
A break-away dunk by Evans with 16 seconds to play gave Cincinnati a 76-75 lead, but was quickly answered by a Miles 3-pointer that gave the Hawks a two-point margin with nine seconds to go and setting up the wild finish that saw Ellis' shot ruled no good after the referees reviewed the video.
Evans specifically came alive for Cincinnati in the second half, hitting all three of his 3-point attempts and scoring 11 points in a crucial stretch when it looked like Saint Joseph's was primed to pull away. His offense and a run of stops by Cincinnati on defense turned a double-digit Hawks' lead into a three-point Bearcats advantage and a Saint Joseph's timeout with 4:56 to play.
The Hawks quickly answered with buckets by Bembry and Miles and a falling-down 3-pointer by Brown to retake the lead, 75-71 with 2:33 to play.
Brown staked the Hawks to the game's first double-digit lead at the 12:18 mark of the second half, hitting a jumper to put St. Joseph's ahead 61-51. A Miles put-back on the next possession extended the lead to 12. Cincinnati answered with a 15-3 run -- including two 3-pointers by Evans -- that tied the game at 66-all with 6:12 to play.
The teams played each other tight through the first half, too, with five ties and both teams leading by at least four points. Saint Joseph's twice extended its lead to eight points, but was reeled back in by a 17-6 Cincinnati run keyed by Coreontae DeBerry, who scored eight of his 15 first-half points in the stretch. Berry finished with 18. When the Bearcats' Cobb hit a 3-pointer with 2:40 to play in the half, Cincinnati had turned a 27-19 deficit into a 36-33 lead.
The Hawks answered quickly, keyed by Bembry, who scored six of his 20 first-half points in the final 3 minutes of the half to send St. Joseph's into the break with a slim 41-40 lead.
NOTES: The game set up as a battle of contrasts, as Cincinnati is one of the most deliberate defensive teams in the country with St. Joseph's preferring to play at a faster pace on offense. The Bearcats came into the game averaging 18.3 seconds per defensive possession. Only eight teams force opponents to play at a slower pace. St. Joe's, meanwhile, averages only 16.3 seconds per offensive possession, second quickest in the Atlantic 10 conference and among the nation's quickest 25 percent of teams. ... Twenty-first year St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli got the Hawks out of the Round of 64 for the first time since his 2004 team went to the Regional Final and fell just a game short of the Final Four.