Photo courtesy of Mitchell Layton
A Thriller in Foggy Bottom
Saint Joseph’s (9-11, 3-5) traveled to Foggy Bottom as one of the hottest teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference after winning their last three games. George Washington (11-9, 5-2) has surprised a few folks especially after defeating Dayton last Saturday 76-69. It was a matchup between the Co-Players of the Week in the A10. James Bishop of GW has been one of the most prolific scorers in all of college basketball this year, and Cameron Brown’s hot shooting has carried the Hawks during this nice run. It looked like this game was going to get out of hand early in the first half. George Washington was scoring with ease in the paint and forcing St. Joe’s to turn the ball over and get out in transition. The Colonials saw their lead balloon to 16 points at the 9:38 mark in the first half. Early foul trouble for Cam Brown resulted in him heading to the bench for the majority of the first half. Saint Joseph’s had no answer for Brendan Adams. The senior guard had a career-high 32 points including 4 three pointers in the first half. Saint Joe’s fans are accustomed to Adams crushing them as former St. Bonaventure great and older brother of Brendan, Jaylen Adams constantly put-up career games against the Hawks a few years ago.
Saint Joseph’s did a great job on James Bishop in the first half specifically Cameron Brown. As mentioned, Cam Brown was in foul trouble for most of the game. He never really got it going offensively, but Lynn Greer III had the best game of his young career on Wednesday night. The Sophomore guard finished with a career-high 31 points (13-22), 11 rebounds, and 3 assists. Greer was the guy SJU relied on especially with both Brown and Reynolds on the bench in the second half with foul trouble. The Hawks went into the half down six points but made adjustments coming out of the break. Kacper Klaczek and Brendan Adams were exchanging threes early in the second half, as the Sophomore from Poland hit three 3 pointers in a span of 2:11. It felt like every time the Hawks had some momentum, Adams would answer with a three of his own. A 3 pointer by Erik Reynolds II at the 14:43 mark tied the game up at 51-51. Lynn Greer then followed that up with a quick burst to the rim and converted on a layup with 13:44 left to play to give SJU their first lead of the game. SJU took a four-point lead soon after, but GW responded with a three from Amir Harris which was the start of a 9-0 GW run. After the GW run, the Hawks were looking for an answer, and they got just that. Lynn Greer scored the next 10 points for the Hawks to tie it up at 69. Reynolds was called for his fifth personal foul with about 3:00 remaining in the second half. With just under :30 remaining in regulation, Hunter Dean knocked down two free throws for the Colonials and gave them a 79-74 lead. Greer responded by attacking the basket and converting a layup + a three-point play. The Hawks were down two points and set up in their full court trap. GW decided to pass the ball into the corner right in front of the Hawks bench after Rasheer Fleming and Christian Winborne did a great job of trapping without fouling and forced the turnover. SJU fortunately got a free timeout during the official review and set up a play for Lynn Greer to get to the basket. Greer drove to the basket and missed the layup but was able to tip it in on the second effort to tie the game up and force OT.
— SJU Hawks MBB (@SJUHawks_MBB) January 26, 2023
SJU went into overtime without Reynolds and Cameron Brown was on the floor with four fouls. After GW scored first in OT with a James Bishop layup, Christian Winborne hit a step back three to give the Hawks an early lead in the overtime period. With 3:29 left in overtime, James Bishop drove left and put up a floater but was fouled by Cam Brown. That meant the Hawks were going to be without their two best players for the remainder of the game. Bishop knocked both free throws down, but SJU answered with another clutch three from Louis Bleechmore to give the Hawks a two-point lead with three minutes remaining. After a great defensive possession for St. Joe’s, Greer pushed the ball up court to find a wide open Rasheer Fleming. Fleming missed the layup, got the offensive rebound but couldn’t find the bottom of the net. A bit of a missed opportunity for the Hawks, but SJU pulled together another defensive stop. Saint Joseph’s found themselves in a stagnant offensive possession resulting in a Fleming three-point attempt which was corralled by Bishop. Bishop went the length of the court and tried laying it in only to have Fleming block it off the backboard. It was called a goaltend on the floor, but since a call was made the officials were able to review it. They determined it was a clean block and the possession arrow favored SJU. Greer once again drove to the basket and converted the left-hand layup to give the Hawks a four-point lead with 1:40 left. Brendan Adams missed a layup on the next possession but neither Klaczek nor Fleming could control the defensive rebound resulting in a Maximus Edwards three-pointer to cut the Hawks lead to one. Greer once again put the pressure on GW’s interior and scored on a layup. Greer then fouled Bishop on a 3-point attempt which resulted in Bishop converting two of three. SJU inbounded the ball to Fleming after GW implemented some full court pressure. Fleming gave it right back to Klaczek who passed it back to Fleming before GW fouled Fleming. This was a brilliant move by GW head coach Chris Caputo. Not only are you extending the game and sending a freshman to the foul line in a big moment, but SJU was not in the double bonus, so it was a one-and-one. Fleming missed the front end and Bishop scored on a layup in which Fleming seemed to be in a tough position. It looked like Fleming was trying to decide to push further up on Bishop after the screen or to commit to the shot block. With GW leading 92-91, Billy Lange drew up the play that was working all night… Greer going downhill to the basket. Greer got off a great look, but it was a bit too high off the glass. Klaczek came crashing for the putback tip, but it was called off for offensive interference. At first glance, I thought it was the right call, but after many looks, it seemed as though the ball was not over the cylinder and Dean’s hand went under the net which would have been a goaltending violation. They went to the monitor and the call stood. GW once again had trouble with the inbound and turned the ball over. SJU tried getting a good shot off, but it resulted in an off-balanced three-point attempt from Fleming which ended the Hawks hard fought night. After Greer inbounded it to Winborne, he swung the ball to Klaczek. It looked like Bleechmore was somewhat open on the left block, and by the time Fleming received the ball, nobody was around Bleechmore. Hawks came up a bit short 92-91.
I’m gonna see this in my nightmares pic.twitter.com/Z220fbpyCc
— John_Yurkoski (@JYurkoski) January 26, 2023
For Saint Joe’s fans, there hasn’t been a whole lot to get excited about the last four or five years. I have often been critical of the coaching, the performance of the players and the passion this team plays with. If you’re looking for me to critique any of that after this game, you’ll have to go somewhere else. For this SJU team to battle back down 16 points in the first half and play crunch time minutes without their two best players, and still had a chance to win is shocking. I was pleased with the fight they showed on Wednesday night. SJU has another tough test at George Mason on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how SJU responds after a game like this. I am not going to call the game on Sunday a “must-win”, but I believe it is important for the Hawks to play a clean game before their next stretch of four games which are all winnable (Home vs URI, Home vs La Salle, @ Loyola, Home vs GW).
Follow me on Twitter (@Jyurkoski) for more updates on Saint Joseph’s Men’s Basketball.