Saturday, March 15, 2003
A-10: Dayton beats St. Joe's, reaches final
By Joe Kay
The Associated Press
DAYTON - St. Joseph's made a remarkable comeback. Jameer Nelson had one of the greatest games in Atlantic 10 tournament history. Yet neither could keep Dayton from winning at home.
The 22nd-ranked Flyers used every bit of their home-court advantage to hold on for a 76-73 victory Friday night, sending them to their first A10 tournament title game.
Dayton (23-5) will play Temple (15-14) for the championship Saturday on a court that has been very good to the Flyers all season. They're 16-1 at UD Arena.
Dayton beat Temple 57-49 on Jan. 15, but the Owls have won 10 of their last 12 behind their matchup zone defense. They shut down David West and beat No. 10 Xavier 63-57 in the earlier semifinal on Friday.
"They've gotten better and better in their zone," Dayton coach Oliver Purnell said. "We've got to defend them and not let them get on a roll."
The Flyers couldn't even slow Nelson, who scored a career-high 39 points - the third-most in A10 tournament history - and led No. 25 St. Joseph's (23-6) back from a 19-point deficit in the second half.
"Special people in special times do special things, and he is something special," coach Phil Martelli said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to watch him tonight."
Nelson's two free throws tied it at 71 with 1:53 to play, but he was on the bench for the crucial final seconds after getting his fifth foul.
D.J. Stelly's three-point play gave Dayton a 75-71 lead, and Nelson hit two more free throws to get the Hawks within a basket once again. The Flyers then held on with a bit of good fortune.
Nate Green rebounded a teammate's miss with 6.8 seconds left and was fouled by Nelson, who reluctantly went to the bench. Green made the second of his two shots for a 76-73 lead.
Three-point specialist Pat Carroll set up to shoot from just beyond the arc on the final play, but Stelly ran over, reached in and tied up the ball as Carroll caught the pass. The buzzer sounded, and Carroll spread his arms in disbelief that no foul was called.
"I never could get the shot off," said Carroll, one of the nation's most accurate long-range shooters. "He slapped me on the arm. In the whole second half, they were calling ticky-tack fouls. I was hoping I'd get one, but they didn't call it."
Nelson also spread his arms on the bench, trying to entice a call.
"If they were going to call a hand-check on me that put me out of the game, why wouldn't they call one on Dayton?" Nelson said.
Ramod Marshall led Dayton with 15 points. Nelson was 11-of-19 from the field and 14-of-16 on free throws as he single-handedly turned the game around.
The thousands of red-shirted Flyers fans who savored Temple's upset of Xavier in the opening game were on their feet as Dayton pulled ahead by 19 early in the second half.
Then, for the second night in a row, Dayton went soft with a big lead, and Nelson brought a hushed silence to the big arena. He scored 27 of the Hawks' first 49 points, and his two free throws with 3:31 left tied it at 69.
St. Joseph's players jumped to their feet and raised their arms when his second shot swished, sensing a chance for an amazing win. But he was on the bench with them when the comeback came up short.
Dayton led for most of the game, pulling ahead by nine midway through the first half. Three quick baskets left the Flyers up 38-31 at halftime.
The Flyers then appeared to take control by hitting their first five 3-point shots in the second half. Brooks Hall, who missed all three of his shots in the first half, hit one from the top of the key to start a 17-3 run that pushed the lead to 55-36.
Nelson scored six points in an 11-point spurt that gave the Hawks some hope, then scored six more in a 14-1 run that tied the score at 69 and silenced the crowd.
Temple surprises sloppy Musketeers
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Temple defense defines outcome
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A-10: Dayton beats St. Joe's, reaches final
Big 10: OSU latest team to oust a No. 1 seed
C-USA: No. 20 Louisville tops No. 16 Memphis
MAC: Central Michigan, Kent advance to final
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