USJ’s first-ever men’s basketball team defeated William Patterson Friday night before a sold-out crowd at Trinity College’s Ray Oosing Gymnasium.
By Ronni Newton. Game write-up provided by USJ Sports Information Director Josh Ingham
This has been a year of firsts for the University of Saint Joseph, and Friday night the brand new men’s basketball team, coached by the legendary Jim Calhoun, played its first-ever game and notched its first win before an electrified audience that packed Ray Oosing Gymnasium on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford.
A new facility is being built on USJ’s West Hartford campus, but anticipating that the inaugural game – which also marked Calhoun’s return to coaching after his retirement from UConn six years ago – would draw a crowd that would overwhelm its 300-seat gym, University officials arranged to have the game at Trinity.
The official capacity at Trinity is listed as 1,800, and it was standing-room only with some people having to be turned away at the door.
“It’s just phenomenal to have this kind of crowd,” USJ President Rhona Free said Friday night at the game. “They’re here with their rally towels, so many families who came to watch the legendary coach and the basketball players.”
Although there are a few transfer students, most of the players on the team are freshmen. In June 2017, USJ’s Board of Trustees made the decision to admit males as undergraduates beginning in the fall of 2018.
The goal was to enroll 50 men in the first year, and to field men’s soccer and basketball teams to compete at the Division III level, and expand the cross country and swim programs to also include men. The plan exceeded expectations, with 97 men enrolled this fall.
Free said that the Board of Trustees evaluated a lot of evidence in making its decision to go co-ed, and the move has led to an increased in female enrollment as well.
“We’ve added new academic majors that we wouldn’t have been able to support,” Free said. The increased overall enrollment has opened up more opportunities for women as well as men.
Hiring Calhoun, Free said, will benefit the basketball team, but the buzz it created also helped draw attention to the fact that the school had gone co-ed.
In September 2017, Calhoun agreed to be the “architect” of USJ’s basketball program. After negotiating with UConn, where he continues as a consultant with the basketball program, Calhoun became head coach.
“He’s such a wonderful man,” Free said of Calhoun. He is assisted by Associate Head Coach Glen Miller, and assistants Rashamel Jones, Jeff Calhoun, and Ryan Olander.
A storybook ending for Saint Joe’s Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jim Calhoun in his return to college basketball, as the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) men’s basketball team came back from 14 down to win in their first ever collegiate basketball game.
The rally towels said “#WinTheDay”, and the Blue Jays (1-0) made good on their promise, outlasting the William Paterson (WP) Pioneers (0-1) 79-74. It’s thanks in part to freshman guard Ryan O’Neill (Litchfield, CT), who led the way with 25 points, 19 coming in the second half.
Nearly 2,000 fans sold out the high-banked bleachers of Ray Oosting Gymnasium at Trinity College in Hartford. Dozens more had to be turned back. The environment was electric in Jim Calhoun’s debut, but the play on the floor early was anything but.
USJ Trailed minutes in, 9-3, after some missed defensive assignments and second chance points for WP.
With energy on both ends from freshman guard Chris Childs (Bronx, NY), the Blue Jays settled in by midway through the first half. That’s when Childs picked up his second foul.
WP made their run as soon as Childs stepped off the floor. A barrage of threes from junior forward Sean Smith (Moraga, CA), and hard drives to the rim by sophomore guard Domenic Mignone (Rutherford, NJ) capped a 21-6 run to end the half. Calhoun, arguing with officials, received his first technical foul in the process with 4:17 left before the break.
Down 41-30 at the half, Calhoun and the Blue Jays went to work. Three-pointers by 6’9 sophomore forward Mike Sagay (Bloomfield, CT) ended the first half and started the second. It seemed to rally the crowd as the energy in the building intensified.
Sagay followed it with two monster dunks on the break, igniting a 23-2 run to take the lead 50-43 with 15:03 to go.
“Early, they found out we weren’t ready to play,” said USJ Head Coach Jim Calhoun. “I know we made baskets, I know we made some stops…but what we did was we competed. We hadn’t done that as well in the first half.”
USJ maintained every threat the Pioneers threw at them, managing the gap until the final minute, leading 75-72.
A loose ball foul call benefited the Blue Jays as freshman forward Nadir Dixon-Thompson (Dorchester, MA) made 1-of-2 free throws to go up four. A key steal and second free throw by O’Neill sealed the deal. Sagay finished one rebound shy of a double-double (13 pts, 9 Reb), while freshman guard Delshawn Jackson Jr. (Hartford, CT) pitched in offensively with 15 points and four assists. The Pioneers were led by Smith (20 pts, 6-12 3FG, 6 Asts) and Mignone, who scored 12 of his 19 points in the first half.
The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) men’s basketball team made it two for two under head coach Jim Calhoun in their inaugural men’s basketball season, dominating in the second half, and defeating the Medgar Evers College (MEC) Cougars, 95-82 on Sunday afternoon at the O’Connell Athletic Center on the campus of USJ in West Hartford.
Freshman guard Chris Childs (Bronx, NY) finished with a game-high 25 points (5-10 3FG), seven rebounds and seven assists. Freshman guard Ryan O’Neill (Litchfield, CT) made big contributions once again off the bench, scoring 14 points (4-9 FG) and grabbing five rebounds. Freshman guard Elias Scott (Henryville, PA) led the way for the Cougars with 22 points (5-8 3FG), who refused to quit until the final buzzer, trimming a 25-point gap to 13.
Nine different Blue Jays scored and 12 played in total. USJ shot 57 percent from the field (35-62, 12-23 3FG), leading in all but the opening moments.
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