The University of Saint Joseph men’s basketball team defeated Williams College, 75-54, on Saturday in West Hartford, and is heading to the Division III Sweet Sixteen.
Submitted by the University of Saint Joseph Athletic Department
The nationally-ranked No. 4 University of Saint Joseph (USJ) men’s basketball team continued its historic postseason run, knocking off the No. 14 nationally-ranked Williams College Ephs (Williams), 75-54, in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Second Round Saturday night inside James A. Calhoun Gymnasium in West Hartford, CT.
The win marks the second time that a school from the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, as the Blue Jays join intrastate and conference rivals Albertus Magnus College, who made the third round in 2014, where they lost to Williams. With the result, USJ moves to 29-1 on the season, while Williams concludes its campaign at 23-5.
Jaecee Martin (Hartford, CT) gave the Blue Jays the early lead with a pair of free throws, but a 4-0 Williams run saw the Ephs take the lead and force USJ to call an early timeout with 16:52 on the clock. Jalen Samuels (Franklin, MA) wasted little time tying the score at 4-4 out of the timeout, using a sweet spinning layup with 16:25 on the clock. The two teams continued to trade baskets, playing out to a 8-8 score line with 13:25 remaining in the half. The Ephs again retook the lead, but a pair of Malcolm Eley (Bronx, NY) free throws, evened the game at 10-10 heading into a media timeout at the 11:53 mark.
USJ would take full advantage of the break in play, putting on the clamps while exploding for a 10-0 run. Alec Kinder (West Haven, CT) started the run with a tip-in layup, followed by a crucial Chaylyn Martin (Hartford, CT) triple. Martin continued the run with a pair of free throws, while Eley capped off the stretch with free throws of his own, forcing Williams to call a timeout, trailing 20-10 at the 9:08 mark. The Blue Jays continued to roll, increasing the run to 14-0 after another trip to the free throw line by Friedrich Feldrappe (Berlin, Germany) followed by a driving baseline layup from Eley saw USJ take a 24-10 edge into the under-eight media timeout.
The Blue Jays carried the run out of the timeout, as O’Neill this time made a pair of freebies, giving USJ a 16-point edge, 26-10, at the 7:05 mark. O’Neill continued his hot stretch, draining a catch-and-shoot triple from the top of the arc, increasing the lead to 20, 31-11, with 5:34 left in the half. Williams would try and put a stop to the Blue Jays momentum, making a bucket of their own, but another pair of O’Neill free throws, followed by a tough driving layup from Jonathan Box (Frisco, TX) increased USJ’s lead to 22, 35-13, entering a media timeout with 3:53 on the clock.
USJ continued to put its foot on the gas out of the break, increasing the advantage to 23, 39-16, after Samuels knocked down two free throws at the 2:57 mark. Williams would pull the score back within 17, 39-22, but a 5-0 USJ run, featuring a triple from Delshawn Jackson Jr. (Hartford, CT) gave USJ a 44-22 lead heading into the locker room.
Williams came out of the locker room on fire, opening the half on a 10-2 run, cutting the gap to 46-32 and forcing a USJ timeout at the 17:49 mark. The Ephs continued to fight their way back, pulling within eight, 46-38, entering a media timeout at the 15:35 mark. The Blue Jays would increase their advantage back to double digits, as Samuels picked off a pass before slamming home a thunderous dunk on the other end, moving the score to 48-38 with 14:17 on the clock. The Blue Jays and Ephs continued to battle back-and-forth, as USJ maintained a 10-point edge, 50-40, heading into the under-12 media timeout.
The Blue Jays kept up the fight, utilizing a timely 6-2 stretch, capped off by a deep midrange jumper by O’Neill, to increase the gap back to 15, 60-45, with 8:00 on the clock. The Ephs used a three-pointer of their own, cutting the gap back to 13, but a 4-0 Jaecee Martin run saw USJ extended the lead back to 17, 66-49, at the 5:57 mark. O’Neill increased the gap even further, knocking down a pair of free throws after getting fouled on his way to the hoop, to claim a 68-50 lead for the Blue Jays, and forcing Williams to call a timeout with 5:04 left. However, the Ephs would not go away easy, immediately making a layup to cut the gap to 16, 68-52, entering the final media timeout of the game at the 3:47 mark. The Blue Jays would shut down the Williams offense for the remainder of the game, allowing only one more made bucket to take home a dominating 75-54 victory.
O’Neill paced the Blue Jays offense with 21 points, while Eley, Jaecee and Chaylyn Martin joined him in double figures, scoring 14, 13 and 10 points, respectively. O’Neill also flirted with a double-double, hauling in a team-high eight rebounds. Despite having a significant size advantage, the Ephs held a slim edge on the glass, outrebounding USJ 38-36. The Blue Jays limited Williams to 27.3 percent shooting from three, and a 37.3 percent mark from the floor. USJ were tenacious defensively, forcing 21 Williams’ miscues.
With the victory, the Blue Jays advance to the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen for the first time in program history. USJ is set to face Wheaton (Ill.) at a site yet to be determined. The Thunder and Blue Jays will meet on Friday, March 10 at a time to be announced later.
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