Freshman Taylor Funk scored 19 points and hit a three-pointer late in overtime to help Saint Joseph’s defeat VCU, 87-81, in Atlantic 10 action at Hagan Arena. The win snapped a two-game losing streak for Saint Joseph’s (6-7; 1-1 A-10).
Tied at 76-76, Funk opened the extra period hitting three free throws to give Saint Joseph’s a 79-76 lead. After VCU answered with a layup by De’Riante Jenkins, Pierfrancesco Oliva hit a jumper at 2:34 to give the Hawks an 81-78 lead. Funk then connected on his fourth three of the night at 1:40 to build SJU’s lead up to 84-78. A layup by senior James Demery with :18 to play, and a free throw from Oliva, sealed the win for SJU.
Oliva finished with 15 points and seven rebounds for the Hawks. Demery had 13 points and eight rebounds, while surpassing the 1,000-point mark in his career, becoming the 54th player in Hawk history to do so. Nick Robinson had 13 points on a career-best 11-for-14 shooting from the line while Shavar Newkirk added 12 points for SJU.
VCU (22-7; 1-1) was led by Justin Tillman with 22 points and 12 rebounds, while De’Riante Jenkins scored 16 points. Isaac Vann added 13 points for the Rams.
Saint Joseph’s led 75-71 with 1:54 to play, but Jonathan Williams converted a layup and the foul shot to pull the Rams within 75-74 at 1:39. The Hawks missed their next three shots, setting up a VCU possession with under 30 seconds to play. VCU misfired on a three-point attempt but Oliva grabbed the rebound and made a free throw at 22.7 seconds to give Saint Joseph’s a 76-74 lead. Williams tied the game with a driving layup at :10 and after a Hawk turnover, VCU’s last attempt by Tillman went in, but was ruled after the buzzer.
VCU led at the start, 15-10, but the Hawks went on a 7-0 run to take their first lead of the game, 17-15. The Rams went back up, 27-21, but Saint Joseph’s scored 11 unanswered points, with five from Funk to take a 32-27 lead. The Hawks held on for the rest of the half, owning a 46-40 lead at the break.
The teams traded leads in the second half, with neither leading by more than six points. VCU owned a 67-64 lead with under six minutes to play, but freshman Anthony Longpré pulled the Hawks to within, 67-66, before a pair of free throws by Demery regained the lead for SJU. VCU would only tie it one more time, at the end of regulation.
Saint Joseph’s, which entered the game converting 65.6 percent of its free throws, went to the foul line a season-high 38 times and made 29 for a season-best 76.3 percent.
VCU was 5-of-7 from the foul line and committed 20 turnovers in the contest. SJU, which ranks second in the nation in fewest turnovers, committed a total of ne, with seven coming in the second half.
"The turnover number being down certainly helped us... and five guys in double figures. I think that we competed at a league level, and we didn't do that Saturday. We played on Saturday. Tonight, we competed,” said SJU coach Phil Martelli. “But I still don't think we played very well. You can't miss lay-ups. So we competed and we kept our turnovers down, and we played like a home team. But that wasn't an ‘A’ game, and we're going to have to get there by practicing."
"Because they were not making three-point shots, the zone certainly was a factor . . . The zone at least slowed them down. That [Funk's late three-pointer] was a big shot. Checco [Oliva's] shot at the end of the shot clock was a big shot. Other guys had opportunities to make big shots. That's what I'm talking about . . . going to the basket . . . We still have to become more mature basketball players, but that one shot (Funk’s), that probably did it,” said Martelli.
Saint Joseph’s will host St. Bonaventure on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. in a nationally-televised game on ESPNU.