BROOKLYN N.Y.–Phil Martelli was on fire. First the Saint Joseph’s head coach cracked a joke about leaving a ticket for Pope Francis, saying he didn’t know if the newly elected leader of the Catholic Church was able to make it or not.
Then, following No. 10 Saint Joseph’s 58-57 nail biting win over Xavier Thursday night in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, Martelli joked about how his team would prepare for their next opponent: 2nd-seeded VCU.
“To prepare for them we’re going to go down to Times Square, have them run around and try not go get hit by a car,” Martelli said.
The Hawks narrowly escaped the Musketeers, who came within inches of completing an accidentally fascinating final possession.
Xavier tossed an inbounds pass off the backboard the length of the floor that landed in the hands of Isaiah Philmore, who missed a wide open shot from a little over a foot away off the back iron that would’ve won the game in dramatizing fashion.
At this point, perhaps all Martelli could do was generate some smiles in an already well-lit postgame press conference.
Maybe playing a live version of Frogger in the middle of Times Square is a bit of overkill, but the Hawks have been burned by the Rams before.
On Jan. 17 at VCU, Saint Joseph’s watched a four-point lead slip away in the final 14 seconds of regulation. The Rams dodged a bullet at home and ran away to a victory in overtime.
Friday’s quarterfinals matchup is a shot at revenge against a VCU team working on the advantage of an extra day’s rest.
“It’s definitely going to be big for us,” Saint Joseph’s junior guard Langston Galloway said.
VCU forced Saint Joseph’s to turn the ball over 20 times back in January, but shot just 9-of-17 from the free throw line and an even worse 7-for-32 from 3-point range.
The Hawks were led by the strong play of Galloway and Carl Jones, who combined for 43 points.
The Rams currently own a +8 turnover margin that would rank as the sixth highest turnover margin in NCAA Division I history if the season ended today.
“It’s going to be like crossing the street in Times Square and we have to try not to get hit by a car,” Martelli said.
VCU enters the Atlantic 10 Tournament coming off a loss to Temple in its regular season finale.
“Their style, their swagger,” Martelli said. “They’re going to come after our throats.”