KINGSTON, R.I. – Senior forward Ronald Roberts, Jr., tallied 11 of his game-high 18 points in the second half to lead the Saint Joseph’s men’s basketball team back from a 10-point deficit to defeat Rhode Island, 57-54, at the Ryan Center on Wednesday night. Senior Halil Kanacevic and freshman DeAndre' Bembry chipped in with 12 points apiece, while Roberts and Kanacevic each corralled nine rebounds.
Trailing 38-28 with 14:27 to go in the game, Saint Joseph’s (18-7 overall, 8-3 Atlantic 10) went on a 9-0 run that featured five points from Bembry. A pair of free throws by Ifeanyi Onyekaba with 10:55 to go pushed URI’s lead back to three, but Roberts hit one of two from the line and then converted a layup to tie the game, 40-40, at the 9:57 mark.
The teams traded baskets over the next five minutes, with the Hawks taking their first lead since the 12:06 mark of the first half on a three-pointer by senior Langston Galloway that made it a 46-44 game with 7:21 to go.
With 5:17 to play, Roberts hit a pair from the line to put SJU ahead, 50-48, before junior Papa Ndao drained a three with 4:37 on the clock to give the Hawks their largest lead of the game.
Rhode Island (11-16 overall, 2-10 Atlantic 10) got a pair of free throws from E.C. Matthews to get back within three, but Kanacevic hit a layup to restore the five-point margin at 55-50 with 3:20 left.
Gilvydas Biruta then hit a pair of buckets to get the Rams within a point at 55-54 with 2:21 to play. After missed three-pointers by both teams, Kanacevic pulled down a key offensive rebound with a minute to go; he then found a seam and coasted to the basket for a layup to make it a 57-54 lead with 34 seconds to go.
The Rams were able to get off a pair of shots, but Matthews’ three-pointer in the final seconds was offline, and junior Chris Wilson picked up the rebound and dribbled out the clock to seal the win.
Rhode Island held a 33-25 lead at halftime. The Hawks led by as many as three in the opening stanza, as Bembry hit a three at the 15:44 mark to put SJU on top, 9-6. Bembry scored seven of the Hawks’ first nine in the contest, but was whistled for his second foul of the game with 15:27 to go in the frame and only played six minutes in the first half.
A Kanacevic dunk with 12:06 to go in the half put SJU on top, 14-13, but an 8-2 Rhode Island run made it a 21-16 game. The Hawks would get back to within a point at 22-21 after a three-point play by Roberts with 4:55 to go, but the Rams closed the half on an 11-4 run to go into the break with an eight-point advantage.
Saint Joseph’s struggled from the floor in the first half, going 1-of-10 from three-point range and shooting just 35.7% from the field overall, but hit on 12-of-21 in the second half to finish at 44.9% for the night. The Hawks held URI to 37.7% from the field in the game, including 3-of-14 (21.4%) from long range.
The game was the 600th of Phil Martelli's head coaching career. He is SJU's all-time leader in victories with 356.
Galloway finished the night with six points, all in the second half; he has now scored 1,794 for his career and moved into fourth place on the Saint Joseph’s all-time scoring list on Wednesday night.
Saint Joseph’s returns home for its next two games beginning Saturday, February 22, when the Hawks host Fordham at 2:00 p.m. The game will air on 610 WIP and will be streamed live on Hawks All-Access, a part of the Atlantic 10 Digital Network.