Saint Joseph's vs Virginia Commonwealth

Time: 01:00 P.M. EST
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Saint Joseph's advanced to the Atlantic 10 championship thanks in part to a big effort from a Staten Island native.

It will face No. 23 Virginia Commonwealth, which won't have a key player who hails from the Bronx.

Sunday's title game is in Brooklyn, where the Rams will be looking to unleash their ''Havoc'' defense against the Hawks - the conference's best shooting team.

Saint Joseph's (23-9) is seeking its first Atlantic 10 tournament crown since 1997. The Hawks cruised to a 67-48 win over St. Bonaventure in Saturday's semifinals.

Halil Kanacevic had 26 points, 17 rebounds, four assists as he showcased the all-around skills he once displayed not far away at Staten Island's Curtis High School, although he was too modest to discuss his stat line.

"I really never base my game on numbers," he said. "I'm more, it's my floor game for the team. I don't care about points."

VCU (26-7) won by the same margin in its 74-55 semifinal win over George Washington, but suffered a major blow. Bronx native Melvin Johnson, the conference's sixth-man of the year, suffered a serious knee injury five minutes into the game.

There is speculation that Johnson, who has started five of the last six games, is out for the season. Coach Shaka Smart is downplaying that likelihood.

''Well, first of all, I think it's important to note Melvin did not pass away today,'' Smart deadpanned. ''We're not giving a eulogy. He's a terrific player, a big part of our team. We'll find out, diagnose exactly what his injury is moving forward. He's got a lot of great basketball ahead of him.''

Jordan Burgess, who started 17 games between Dec. 14-Feb. 21, figures to rejoin the Rams' lineup Sunday.

Before Smart became one of college basketball's hottest coaches, Phil Martelli held that distinction when he led the Hawks to the NCAA tournament round of 16 in his second season in 1996-97.

Rather than jump for greener pastures, Martelli has settled in with Saint Joseph's. Now he has his best team since the 2003-04 club led by Jameer Nelson and Delonte West that went 30-2 and fell one game short of the Final Four.

These Hawks are shooting 46.8 percent overall and an A-10-best 38.1 percent on 3-pointers.

They only had 12 turnovers in a 69-62 win over the Rams on Feb. 8. VCU forces an average of 18.5 to lead the nation.

Langston Galloway scored 24 points, DeAndre Bembry added 18 and Kanacevic had seven points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists.

"We were fortunate enough to beat VCU at the end at home," Martelli said. "We had some separation in that game and they just kept coming, as is their kind of M.O."

Rams forward Mo Alie-Cox had no points or rebounds in that contest, but he's been an unsung hero in this tournament with 15 points and 17 rebounds in VCU's two games.

"Yeah, Mo was terrific," Smart said. "I think that's two days in a row that he's been terrific."

VCU has received 70 total points from Treveon Graham and Briante Weber in this tournament. Juvonte Reddic, second on the team with 12.0 points per game, has struggled with as many points (eight) as fouls in the two games.

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Atlantic 10
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-L
Saint Louis13-327-7
VCU12-426-9
Geo. Wash.11-524-9
Saint Joes11-524-10
UMass10-624-9
Dayton10-626-11
Richmond8-819-14
La Salle7-915-16
St. Bona.6-1018-15
Rhode Island5-1114-18
Duquesne5-1113-17
George Mason4-1211-20
Fordham2-1410-21
 
 
 
 
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