|Langston Galloway lost a tooth but got his team a good win over Notre Dame Friday night. (US Presswire)|
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- They were all freshmen a couple years ago, taking their lumps as St. Joe's suffered through a miserable 11-win season: Langston Galloway, C.J. Aiken, Ronald Roberts and Daryus Quarles.
Now they are the favorites to win the A-10.
The Hawks hung around long enough and eventually pulled out a 79-70 victory in overtime over No. 20 Notre Dame on Friday night at Barclays Arena. The four juniors did it with their primary scorer, Carl Jones, who was serving the second of a three-game suspension.
"They were little boys then," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said after the win over the Irish.
Galloway is certainly no longer a boy. Need tangible proof? He took a hit from an opposing player, went face-first to the floor and it cost him a tooth with 4:39 left in the game. St. Joe's was down a half-dozen at the time, and Galloway wound up missing a grand total of 23 seconds while the trainers failed in their attempt to put the teeth back in his mouth.
"It didn't really bother me," Galloway said.
"He's tough as can be," Martelli said of his guard.
Galloway, who had a mediocre offensive performance with 13 points, wound up knocking down arguably the most important shot of the game, a drive with 1:40 remaining in regulation that ultimately sent the game into overtime.
While much of the top of the A-10 has tripped up already this season (see: VCU, Butler, Dayton have lost and UMass has struggled in a pair of wins), St. Joe's is 2-0 and has pulled off the upset over a ranked opponent. Without arguably its best player and lone senior. Martelli has gone with a bigger starting lineup of 6-foot-9 C.J. Aiken, 6-foot-8 Ronald Roberts Jr. and 6-foot-8 Halil Kanacevic.
"The decision was made last spring," Martelli said of when he opted to go with the new-look lineup. "They're five of our best players."
Roberts came off the bench last season. He finished with 21 points and 16 boards -- both game-high's -- against Notre Dame's veteran frontline. Kanacevic went for 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists while Aiken added 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks (a number Martelli questioned.) This allows St. Joe's to get on the glass. The Hawks finished with 16 offensive rebounds and won the battle on the glass, 40-38, against a strong rebounding team. It also makes it difficult for opponents to score in the paint -- and allows the three guys to be able to switch on the defensive end.
Martelli said he saw this group turn the corner this past offseason. He said the players have started to gain a respect for one another, and now are comfortable communicating with each other in a direct and honest manner. A year ago, the Hawks lost 14 games -- and had a lead in the second half in 11 of them.
"We wouldn't have won this game last season," Martelli told his team after the victory.
"I completely agree," Galloway said.
Then he walked away out of Barclays Arena with one fewer tooth and one more victory.
"I'll take that swap," he said. "Because I know what it's like to lose. We all do."