FAIRFAX, Va. – Down by five at halftime and by three with 7:25 remaining in the game, seniors Halil Kanacevic and Langston Galloway put the Saint Joseph’s men’s basketball team on their backs and led the Hawks to a gritty 84-80 win over George Mason at the Patriot Center on Saturday night.
Four Hawks finished the game in double figures, led by Kanacevic’s 23 points and 20 more from Galloway. Freshman DeAndre' Bembry added 17, while junior Papa Ndao posted a career-high 13 points on 4-of-4 shooting in his first start of the season. Bryon Allen and Jalen Jenkins scored 20 points apiece to lead the Patriots.
The Hawks were without senior forward and second-leading scorer Ronald Roberts, Jr., who missed the first game of his career due to back spasms. The injury forced him out of Wednesday’s game at #19 Massachusetts early in the second half. Sophomore forward Isaiah Miles also missed his second consecutive game due to a concussion.
Saint Joseph’s (10-5 overall, 1-1 Atlantic 10) opened the second half on a 10-2 run, culminating in a dunk and a layup by Kanacevic to put the Hawks on top, 53-47, with 16:26 remaining. The Patriots closed back to within one at 54-53 on a three-pointer by Allen at 14:55, but a layup by Bembry restored a three-point lead a minute later.
A basket from junior Chris Wilson gave the Hawks a 60-55 lead at the 12:28 mark, but GMU would answer with an 11-3 run to take a 66-63 lead with 7:25 to play on a jumper by Jenkins.
Kanacevic answered with a layup before Ndao hit his third three-pointer of the game to put Saint Joseph’s ahead for good, 68-67, with 6:12 on the clock. That bucket kicked off a 9-0 run that featured four points from Galloway and left the Hawks with a 74-67 advantage with 3:16 to go.
A pair of free throws from Jenkins broke up the run, but the Hawks then scored six of the next seven points, punctuated by a fast break dunk from Bembry, to take an 80-70 lead with 45 seconds to play.
Galloway and Kanacevic would each drain a pair of free throws to help seal the victory before Allen would hit a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer to set the final margin.
The first half was played at a brisk pace, with George Mason (7-9 overall, 0-2 Atlantic 10) leading by five, 45-40, at the break. The Hawks shot 60.9% (14-of-23) from the field, while the Patriots hit on 54.5% (18-of-33) of their attempts, including 7-of-14 from three-point range.
After George Mason scored five of the game’s first eight points, the Hawks scored 11 straight to take a 14-5 lead on a three-pointer by Galloway with 16:23 to go. The teams would trade baskets over the next two minutes, but the Patriots closed to within one at 21-20 after a 7-2 run that featured five straight points from Corey Edwards.
The Patriots nosed ahead for the first time since the opening minutes when a layup by Allen with 10:11 to go in the half put George Mason on top, 26-25. GMU would soon stretch its lead to five at 34-29 with 6:40 to go on a three-pointer by Vaughn Gray.
SJU then used a 10-2 run to edge back in front, 39-37, on a jumper by Bembry with 3:12 left in the frame. George Mason responded with an 8-1 run, the last five points coming from Patrick Holloway, to close out the half.
For the game, the Hawks shot 57.7% (29-of-49) from the floor, while the Patriots were 31-of-63, good for 49.2% shooting. SJU enjoyed a 44-34 advantage in the paint while outrebounding George Mason by a 31-26 margin.
Saint Joseph’s returns to action on Wednesday night for its first home conference game of the season against Duquesne. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. at Hagan Arena.