March 11, 2005
By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI - Pat Carroll scored a career-high 30 points Friday night, including a decisive 3-pointer with a minute left, and Saint Joseph's held off Xavier 73-68 to advance to the Atlantic 10 tournament title game.
The top-seeded Hawks (19-10) relied on the conference's co-Player of the Year to keep them in the running for their first tournament championship since 1997. Carroll had 20 points in the first half, and went 7-of-11 from behind the 3-point arc overall.
The left-hander's shot from the right corner with a minute to go finished off a comeback by Xavier (17-12), which cut a nine-point deficit to 64-63 with 1:28 remaining.
Carroll, the most accurate 3-point shooter in Saint Joseph's history, decided a rematch of teams that made the biggest news in last year's A-10 Tournament. The Hawks were No. 1 and unbeaten when Xavier pulled off an 87-67 upset in the quarterfinals in Dayton. Both teams made it to the final eight in the NCAA Tournament.
Both defenses had trouble keeping up in a furious first half - six ties, six lead changes. Center Will Caudle steadied Xavier inside, scoring 12 points of his 14 points. Carroll paced the Hawks by eluding defenders, darting off picks and hitting his first five shots, four of them from behind the arc.
Xavier switched defenders but couldn't stop Carroll, who went 6-of-7 from the field in the first half, 4-of-4 from behind the arc and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. His 3-pointer put Saint Joseph's ahead 40-34 at halftime.
Carroll also tormented the Musketeers in their other game this season, scoring 29 in the Hawks' 67-59 victory in Philadelphia on Jan. 29. This time, the crowd was in Xavier's favor - the tournament is being played at an arena a short drive from campus.
It didn't matter to Carroll, who made baskets over every defender who guarded him and stopped Xavier's two second-half charges.
After Justin Doellman's tip-in cut it to 47-45, Carroll hit a pair of 3s. Another 3-pointer by Dwayne Lee put the Hawks ahead 56-47, matching their biggest lead.
Dedrick Finn's 3-pointer - his first basket after seven misses - got it down to 61-58 with 4:26 left, leaving the outcome in Carroll's hands. He shot an air ball on a 3-pointer with 1:57 to go, and Josh Duncan's free throw got Xavier within 64-63. Carroll then hit the three from the right corner, threw back his head and screamed, sensing he had delivered the clinching basket.
The conference's worst free-throw shooting team then finished it off by going 6-of-8 from the line.
"I'm really, really happy for our players. No one knows how down and out they were on January 1st. But to see the joy they have - not only in winning, but for the opportunity," said Hawk coach Phil Martelli.
It will be Saint Joseph's third overall berth in the Atlantic 10 championship game. The Hawks won A-10 titles in both appearances, in 1986 and 1997. Martelli was a part of both championships, as an assistant in '86 as in his second year as head coach in '97.