April 1, 2005
NEW YORK -
By Tom Durso
Euphoria went toe-to-toe with heartbreak Thursday night, and for the second consecutive year heartbreak took a close decision.
Saint Joseph's remarkable 2005 run came to a sad end in the National Invitation Tournament final, as Tarence Kinsey's three-pointer found twine with just under a second left to give South Carolina a 60-57 win in Madison Square Garden.
Kinsey's improbable trey came just after the Hawks' Pat Carroll had capped an SJU rally by tying the game with his own three-pointer from the corner with 7.5 seconds left. Saint Joseph's had been down by five with 27 seconds to go before three-balls by Chet Stachitas and Carroll, sandwiched around a Gamecock free throw, knotted the game.
The end of the game was reminiscent of last year's nearby East Rutherford regional final in the NCAA Tournament, which the Hawks lost on a late shot by Oklahoma State's John Lucas.
"A guy who's been struggling all game [Carroll] makes an impossible shot, and a team that doesn't make threes makes a three," SJU head coach Phil Martelli said. "We're not leaving here in second place. We're leaving here as champions -- it just doesn't say that in the end result."
Playing his final collegiate game, Carroll never found a rhythm with his shot. Aggressive defense by Kinsey helped limit Saint Joseph's leading scorer to 15 points on 5 of 19 shooting, including an uncharacteristically ineffective 2 of 13 from beyond the arc.
A disappointed but hardly despondent Martelli praised his squad's effort after the game.
"I just told my team that it's been an honor to coach them," he said. "Every single guy emptied their tank physically, mentally, emotionally, and they did it again. ... I'm eternally grateful to them."
Indeed, SJU's refusal to quit when faced with a two-possession deficit in the final 30 seconds mirrored its incredible rebound after a 3-6 start to the season.
"That was them," Martelli said. "That was them. They would fight you, scratch you, and claw you until there was nothing left, and there's nothing left."
Though they kept the game at the pace they wanted, the Hawks were plagued by an inability to find the net. They shot just 30.8 percent in the second half, at one point failing to score a field goal in more than 10 minutes of play, though they had a fair number of open looks.
"[South Carolina's] defense was better in person than it was on tape," Martelli said. "We did not defensive-rebound well enough. Our class of shot was good."
The Gamecocks' Carlos Powell, the NIT MVP, led all scorers with 16 points, though he hit just 6 of 16 from the floor. Carroll and Saint Joseph's center Dwayne Jones (10 points, nine rebounds, four blocks) were named to the all-tournament team.
Emphasizing that the 2006-06 Hawks would be "a separate entity" than this year's version, Martelli nonetheless expressed hope that his team would learn from Carroll's work ethic and fellow senior John Bryant's "dignity, spirit, and class."
"We're a program, not a team," he said. "I couldn't be prouder of the way the school was represented these two nights in New York."