Saint Joseph's 73, Temple 59

Xavier leads Fordham, 37-33 at halftime.

[B]Saint Joseph’s Defeats Temple 73-59[/B]
By Joe Kay, AP Sports Writer

CINCINNATI - Chet Stachitas triggered Saint Joseph’s 3-point flurry, shooting quickly and confidently over Temple’s zone defense, and the Hawks advanced to the Atlantic 10 tournament title game with a 73-59 victory Friday night.

Saint Joseph’s (18-12) extended its winning streak to eight games, its best in two years, while reaching the title game for the second straight season. The Hawks lost to George Washington last year.

Rather than try to solve Temple’s inscrutable zones, the Hawks shot over them, going 13-of-29 on 3-point attempts. Stachitas had 18 points overall and went 4-of-5 from behind the arc in the first half, when Saint Joseph’s took control.

Abdulai Jalloh also had 18 for Saint Joseph’s, which will play either Xavier or Fordham for the A10’s automatic NCAA tournament berth. Mardy Collins led Temple with 25 points.

Temple (17-14) turned it into a wide-open tournament by upsetting No. 6 George Washington in the quarterfinals, ensuring that the league would get more than one team in the NCAA tournament. The Owls haven’t been there since 2001.

Saint Joseph’s presented the biggest hurdle to getting back. The Hawks are the one team in the league that knows how handle that formidable zone, beating their longtime Philadelphia rival seven times in a row before a 57-44 loss at Temple on Feb. 14 ended the streak.

The dominance came with an asterisk, however. No matter what happened during the regular season, Saint Joseph’s had never beaten Temple in the A10 tournament, going 0-7.

With a flurry of 3’s, the Hawks shot that down, too.

In their quarterfinal upset, the Owls squeezed the energy and confidence out of George Washington’s high-powered offense by mixing in some different zones with their trademark matchup.

They mixed it up again on Friday, but Saint Joseph’s was ready. The Hawks’ 3-point shooting — their main area of improvement during the late-season winning streak — was dead-on.

Instead of trying to get the ball inside the beefy zone, Saint Joseph’s shot over it. Ten of its first 11 shots came from behind the arc, and four went in.

Stachitas hit back-to-back 3’s for a 12-5 lead that prevented Temple’s zone from digging in and signaled that this was a different day. Saint Joseph’s opened a 15-point lead in the first half and was never seriously threatened, leading by at least nine the rest of the way.

There was some good defense by the Hawks, too. Temple missed five of its first 22 shots, many of them from only a few feet away, as its season-long problem of inconsistent shooting cropped up again.

The Owls aren’t built for big comebacks, and Saint Joseph’s isn’t the type of team to let it happen. The Hawks lead Division I in free-throw shooting, so fouling wasn’t a good option — Saint Joseph’s went 20-of-26 from the line on Friday.