With UMass defeating Rhode Island, the Hawks are now the 12th seed in the tournament and will open play at the campus of the fifth-seeded team (to be announced later) on Tuesday, March 9. La Salle is eliminated from tournament consideration and ends the year with a 12-18 mark and 4-12 record in the Atlantic 10.
On "Senior Day", Garrett Williamson scored 18 points and went a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line. Classmate Darrin Govens scored 17 points while freshman Carl Jones had 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting. Idris Hilliard had his second double-double of the year with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Hawks had control from the start and built up a 23-15 lead by the nine-minute mark, but La Salle went on a 7-0 run to pull within 23-22 with 4:45 to play. Govens answered with a 3-pointer and the Hawks would go on a 12-2 run, with two 3-pointers by the senior, to take a 35-24 edge at 1:47. SJU finished the half with a 38-27 lead as Govens tallied 14 points.
Saint Joseph's maintained control the rest of the way. Although La Salle started the second half with a 10-4 run, SJU built the lead back to double digits, 57-47, on a layup by Williamson at 8:57. Rodney Green hit a jumper at 5:25 to pull La Salle within 61-55, but that was the closest the Explorers would get the rest of the way. SJU shot 5-for-6 from the foul line in the final four minutes to ice the win.
"I think the biggest thing was that they (the seniors) had purpose and didn't get caught in the moment of senior day. They played the game of basketball. I thought they did the same thing the other night at GW and carried it forward to practice. This was just playing an Atlantic 10 game. It was the chance to play in a big game and with the year we've had, you wouldn't anticipate us playing in a big game. We got that chance, and took advantage of the opportunity. And the seniors led the way," said SJU coach Phil Martelli.
"The biggest improvement to me in the past two games really has been our defensive intelligence. I'm certain that that is the first game that I've coached here that we've played 40 minutes of zone, but it was an intelligent zone. We really did a lot of things well, we slid, we let the right guys have the ball at times. I thought we did a real nice job of that at GW but I would say defensive intelligence for sure has been the difference," said Martelli.
Saint Joseph's shot just 22-for-32 from the foul line, but it was Williamson who went 10-for-10.
La Salle got 15 points from Kimmani Barrett, who played his first game since having foot surgery on Jan. 28. The Explorers also welcomed back senior Yves Mekongo, who returned after having surgery on a hand injury on Feb. 12. Rodney Green had 12 points and six assists in his final game.
The complete Atlantic 10 pairings will be announced later this evening.