March 1, 2005
WASHINGTON (AP) - Even though he didn't play because of a broken arm, John Bryant was credited for leading Saint Joseph's to its latest victory.
On the bench in a blue long-sleeved shirt instead of a uniform, Bryant supplied the inspiration as the Hawks beat George Washington 71-56 Tuesday night to win Atlantic 10 title outright.
The Hawks, still coming to terms with the loss of their senior co-captain, were upset by Rhode Island on Saturday in their first game after Bryant was injured by a hard foul from a player sent into a game by Temple coach John Chaney to "send a message."
On Tuesday, the Hawks rallied around their sidelined leader.
"John Bryant brings so much emotion to our team," said Pat Carroll, who scored 21 points and was 5-of-8 from 3-point range. "That's one thing you can't turn on and off. You have to have that type of personality. John Bryant brings that no matter whether he is on the floor or not. The way we can reward John Bryant is by playing good basketball."
Saint Joseph's (16-10, 13-2) has recovered from a 3-6 start to become the No. 1 seed for the A-10 tournament, which starts March 9 in Cincinnati. Asked to give a reason for the turnaround, coach Paul Martelli cited Bryant, who accepted a demotion from starter to sixth man without complaint.
"Rather than pout, he added a little laughter to our practices," Martelli said. "There was some smiling going on. Up until then, everything was tense. The coaches were tense. The players were tense, and John kind of lightened the attitude, and therefore we've gotten better."
Bryant continues to run stretching drills at practice and pregame warmups, even with his broken arm. Tuesday's game was also a homecoming for Bryant, who is from nearby Woodbridge, Va. There's a chance he could play again if Saint Joseph's makes the NCAA tournament and advances past the final 16, so that provides further motivation.
"It is in the back of my mind where I want to keep on playing as much as possible, especially to get John Bryant in uniform again," Carroll said. "That would be one of the sweetest things to me."
J.R. Pinnock scored 16 points for George Washington (18-7, 10-5), which suffered a setback in its bid for the school's first NCAA tournament berth since 1999. The Smith Center was stuffed to capacity on Senior Night as the Colonials tried to match the emotion of a visiting team playing for its injured leader.
Bryant's arm was broken on a hard foul a week ago by Temple's Nehemiah Ingram, whom Chaney inserted into the game in retaliation for what Chaney felt were illegal screens being set by the Hawks.
Chaney acknowledged he was wrong and initially suspended himself for one game. When an MRI showed Bryant had a broken arm, Temple suspended Chaney for the rest of the regular season.
On Monday, Chaney removed himself from coaching in the conference tournament. He has apologized to Bryant and his family and offered to pay any medical bills.
Before Tuesday's game, Saint Joseph's issued its first detailed statement on the matter. School president Rev. Timothy Lannon criticized Temple and the Atlantic 10 for letting Chaney set his own punishment.
Martelli thanked the university's leaders for handling the matter.
"The word of the year is closure," Martelli said. "They're looking to make John Bryant and that basketball team whole. ... I thank them because they've not involved me. I have a team to coach, and I have a game to prepare for, and I can't get caught up in all the other maneuverings that have been going on behind the scenes."
The Smith Center crowd brought up the incident when Mike Hall of George Washington fouled Abdulai Jalloh of the Hawks on a fast break early in the second half. Hall hugged him as the two tried to keep from falling into the front row of seats. No malice was apparent, but the fans chanted Chaney's name while the officials called both coaches together for a short conference to discuss the fact that the net was broken on the play.
The Hawks played an inspired opening 10 minutes, taking a 25-11 lead on the strength of 3-point shooting by Carroll and Dwayne Lee. The Hawks led 33-26 at halftime, and held off the Colonials every time George Washington threatened to make a charge in fast-paced second half.