for this game

St. Joseph's topple Xavier behind Calathes

Mar 15, 2008 - 5:31 AM By Vince DiGregorio PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Its top-seeded team may have lost the battle, but the Atlantic 10 Conference probably gained another NCAA Tournament bid.

Pat Calathes scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the second half as Saint Joseph's upset 12th-ranked Xavier, 61-53, in an Atlantic 10 tournament semifinal at Boardwalk Hall on Friday.

Ahmad Nivins added 15 points and Rob Ferguson had 11 for fifth-seeded Hawks (21-11), who will face Temple in an all-Philadelphia matchup in the title game on Saturday. The Owls defeated Charlotte, 60-45, in the other semifinal.

"All season long, at the end of every practice, these guys all gather and say '1-2-3, championship,'" Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "Guess what? We're 40 minutes away now."

Josh Duncan paced Xavier (27-6) with 11 points. Jason Love and Stanley Burrell both chipped in with 10 for the Musketeers, who never led in the contest.

The game turned out to be a rubber match between the two teams. Each team won on its home floor during the regular season.

"We lost to a team tonight that I think is an excellent basketball team," Xavier coach Sean Miller said. "We played them three times. Three very, very tough games."

Prior to the conference tournament, Xavier was the only A-10 team assured of an NCAA bid as most of the rest of the league was bunched together. Saint Joseph's improved its chance of a at-large NCAA berth significantly with a third team being possibly added.

"I hope that (the NCAA Tournament committee) has televisions in Indianapolis and see how our team has played," Martelli said. "If you're asking me if we're one of the best 65 teams in America, sure. But you know what, I'd rather be the A-10 champs (on Saturday) night at this time."

The Hawks won their home game against Xavier only eight days ago. After that win, however, Saint Joseph's lost its regular-season finale at Dayton.

"We can't get too hyped about beating Xavier because we're going to have a hard game (Saturday) night," Calathes said. "It feels great because they are a very good team, but we have to remember the exact same thing happened two weeks ago. After we beat them, we went to Dayton and got cracked."

The Hawks led by as many as 15 points early in the second half before the Musketeers attempted to rally. But everytime Xavier tried to make a move, Calathes was there to halt the momentum.

When Love pulled Xavier within 38-28, Calathes answered with a 3-pointer. After Burrell scored, Calathes hit another shot from the arc to extend the margin to 44-30.

"I can't say enough good things about Calathes," Miller said of the 6-10 senior forward. "He is a very unique player to be at the size that he is to be able to handle the basketball and shoot it.

"That guy is a heck of a player. It's one thing to get 24 points. It's a whole other thing to get 24 out of 61."

St. Joe's hit a cold stretch late in the second half and Xavier slowly creeped back into the game. Duncan hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 54-49 with 1:13 left, but Calathes scored on a breakaway dunk and the remaining points were scored from the foul line.

The Hawks finished 6-of-17 from beyond the arc, while the Musketeers went just 1-of-14.

St. Joe's did a lot of its early scoring inside courtesy of Nivins, who had nine of its first 11 points as the Hawks led 11-6 eight minutes into the contest.

It maintained its slim lead until Burrell sank two free throws and converted a layup following a steal to tie the game at 20-20 with 4:56 left.

However, Xavier went scoreless for the rest of the way as Ferguson and Calathes combined to score the final 10 points of the half to give Saint Joseph's a 30-20 advantage at the intermission.

"We played (good) overall team defense and coach Martelli prepared us very well to play against those guys," Calathes said.

The surge continued with five straight points at the start of the second half when Ferguson hit a 3-pointer and Tasheed Carr scored to give the Hawks their biggest lead at 35-20.