St. Joe's has found itself in a seemingly endless stream of tight contests this season. There were nail-biters against George Washington and La Salle that ended in victories. Then crushing losses at UMass. At home to Richmond. At Saint Bonaventure. Saturday's home loss to Fordham, a team the Hawks beat comfortably in the Bronx last month, for the moment at least, seems to take the cake as the most difficult loss of the season to swallow. And there are a myriad of reasons for that.
The Hawks led nearly all of regulation. Fordham jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, which the Hawks quickly reclaimed, taking a 5-3 on a Chris Clover three. That Clover triple came at the 17:22 mark of the first half. St. Joe's would hold the lead (with one quick exception, a brief 9-8 Ram lead) until just 19 seconds remained in the game and Christian Sengfelder hit a triple to give Fordham a 62-61 lead. Lamarr Kimble responded right back doing what he does best, and that's hitting contested jumpers in clutch time. Fresh hit a three to put the Hawks up 64-62 and, for a moment, appeared to have this third game-winner of the year. But then this happened: Joseph Chartouny scored a lay-up on a complete train wreck of a Saint Joseph's defensive possession with 1 second left to send it to overtime.
Before breaking down other parts of this game, and there is an abundance of material, that final defensive possession in regulation is one that I have a hard time getting past. Lamarr Kimble's contested three gave SJU a 64-62 lead with seven seconds left. Fordham inbounded it under their basket and the Hawks had a foul to give, so Brendan Casper fouled with 5.2 seconds left, giving Fordham an inbound opportunity at half-court. The ball went in to Chartouny, who was being defended by Hawk freshman Nick Robinson. Chartouny turned the corner on Robinson, which was to be expected. You can't fully fault Nick there. What happened next made no sense though. Nobody for the Hawks rotated over to help, and Chartouny cruised in for an uncontested left-handed lay-in. James Demery. Brendan Casper. Both were in the general vicinity, but neither rotated over. Phil Martelli also had no rim protection in the game. Markell Lodge. Jai Williams. Javon Baumann. All three were on the bench. This meant that Chartouny simply had to get past Robinson and he had an easy basket. That easy basket sent things to overtime.
St. Joe's would not have needed Fresh Kimble's heroic three or a defensive stop if it hadn't let a 61-50 lead with 3:44 slip away. Fordham rattled off a 12-0 run over 3:25 to take a 62-61 lead. That run consisted of a Fordham lay-up, a missed Hawk three, a made Fordham three, a missed Hawk jumper, a made Fordham lay-up. A missed Hawk three. A made Fordham lay-up. A missed jumper then a missed front end of a one-and-one by Markell Lodge. Then the made Sengfelder three. So, breaking that down, St. Joe's, in the final stretch, came away empty on four straight possessions. And Fordham scored on four straight possessions. Fordham went to zone and stayed in it, and the Hawks were totally rattled. They couldn't get into the middle of the zone, and instead jacked up threes late in clock. It was a clinic by Fordham on how to close a late double-digit deficit. And even after all that, if Markell Lodge had been at the rim, or Demery or Casper had rotated over, there is a chance this game ends in regulation, as Chartouny doesn't have an easy lay-in at the end of regulation.
This game also doesn't go to overtime if the Hawks, James Demery in particular, hit their free throws. The Hawks as a team shot 24-40 from the line, which is abysmal. However, you can't really look at it as a team. Fresh Kimble was 7-9 from the line, including clutch shots we'll talk about momentarily. Nick Robinson was clutch, going 5-6. Jai Williams was 3-3. Charlie Brown 2-2. Kimble, Robinson, Brown, and Williams were a combined 17-20, so 85%. That wins games. James Demery and Markell Lodge on the other hand were a combined 7-20. Demery 6-15, including four straight misses in overtime that were backbreakers. Lodge missed that huge and-one at the end of regulation. 7-20 is 35%, which is really just inexcusable at the college level. While it's easy for fans to just make a blanket statement that the team shot poorly, they didn't. Lodge and Demery did, to the tune of 35%.
In overtime, Fordham scored the first 6 points, taking a commanding 70-64 lead. The Hawks didn't get on the board until a Chris Clover three with 1:01 left in the period. A Demery and-one, with the made free throw, pulled the Hawks within 72-70 with 32 seconds left. After both teams hit one of two from the line, Chris Clover scored a lay-up on a baseline drive. Then with 5 seconds left in the stanza, Kimble was fouled going to the rim. Down two, he casually nailed both free throws to tie the game up at 75. St. Joe's went on an impressive 11-5 run over the last 1:01 of overtime to send it to a second.
Kimble picked right up where he left off in Double overtime, nailing a three to give SJU a 78-75 lead. A really questionable foul call on Markell Lodge, where it appeared he was fouled, gave Jesse Bunting two free throws. A sub-50% free throw shooter, he nailed both. With 1:35 left, Kimble hit yet another three, this one from NBA range, and the Hawk lead was again two possessions, at 81-77. Fordham once again rallied. A Bunting lay-up, then another 2-2 trip at the line, and we were tied at 81. Down 2 with seven seconds left, Kimble again found himself at the line. And again he calmly buried both. However, this time, it wasn't enough to earn another five minutes. Antwoine Anderson played hero for the Rams, as he did against VCU. Anderson nailed a three at the buzzer to give Fordham a tough 86-82 road win on Hawk Hill.
In losses, we often forget to praise the positive. And yes, this was a gut-punch. Watching it live, then rewatching as I type this, it's almost unbelievable how this played out. To let a comfortable double-digit lead wither in the final 3:44. To watch that final defensive possession in regulation. Then to watch them force double overtime after trailing by 6 with a minute left. And almost force a third overtime, if not for the heroics of Anderson.
The two huge positives tonight were the play of Charlie Brown, who set a new career-high with 22 points, and the continued clutch shot-making of Fresh Kimble. Charlie was 6-11 from three. He had a nasty pull-up jumper on the right baseline. He was active and engaged defensively and on the boards. He has the look of a player who will make a lot of money doing this one day. He's just gotten better and better as the season is progressing. And I don't think we are even close to seeing him as a final product. Another offseason of training, and weight-lifting, more time spent on his dribble-drive game, and I think he is an All-League player next year as a sophomore. I can't think of another player in the A10 with much higher of a ceiling. Then with Kimble, first of all, you have to admire his playing of all 50 minutes. That's Herculean. He hit what should have been the game-winner in regulation. He hit the free throws in overtime to tie it up for a second overtime. Then he hit two more that were about to send it to a third stanza. He is Mr. Clutch. By the time his career on Hawk Hill wraps up, I have a hunch he will hit a big shot or two in March Madness. That's just what he does.
I apologize for the rambling nature of this recap. The game was exhausting. Trying to wrap my head around it all here was a challenge. St. Joe's is now just 10-12 on the year, and 3-7 in league play. It doesn't get easier either, as next up is Dayton on the road. Talk about a challenge.