WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) men's basketball team earned a much-needed dominate performance from the get-go, winning by the largest margin of victory in school history Saturday afternoon against Lesley University (LU), 116-40.
The Blue Jays (9-5) scored in a variety of ways from a variety of players. 15 players scored and 17 played in total. Freshman point guard Delshawn Jackson Jr. (Hartford, Conn.) led Saint Joe's with 21 points, three rebounds and three assists. Freshman forward Ryan O'Neill (Litchfield, Conn.) scored 16 on 7-for-10 shooting, and freshman guard Tahj Brown (Bridgeport, Conn.) added 10. Sophomore forward Chase Howard (San Diego, Calif.) led the Lynx (1-9, 0-2 NECC) with 21 points on 13-for-18 from the free throw line.
USJ doubled up LU on the glass, 70-31. They also dominated the paint, with a +51 point advantage inside, and a +57 point advantage in scoring off the bench. Saint Joe's also had 21 more second-chance points than Lesley.
The Blue Jays relied on their length to get on the board first. O'Neill and freshman forward Alec Kinder (West Haven, Conn.) cleaned up on second and third opportunities for scores to go up 4-0, with 18:10 left in the first. LU quickly called timeout.
The Lnyx responded with a quick four-point spurt of their own. Baskets from Howard, and sophomore guard Will Sgro (North Haven, Conn.) made it 4-4, with 16 minutes left.
It was all USJ from there. Jackson Jr. converted on the first four-point play in men's school history from the left wing, just as the shot clock was winding down. He followed it up with a coast-to-coast uncontested layup, starting a 20-0 run to blow the game wide open.
The Blue Jays were just bigger and stronger, and it showed on every missed shot. Saint Joe's had seven offensive rebounds in the first 12 minutes, to go along with a 17-2 edge in the paint. Sagay, along with freshman forward Noreaga Davis (Bridgeport, Conn.), and freshman center Nadir Dixon-Thompson (Dorechester, Mass.) worked one-on-one in the post for easy baskets. When they missed, it was a quick follow up shot off the glass. Even when the Lynx scored a hoop, USJ found a way to beat them down the floor for a high-percentage shot.
Kinder made a statement just as the half came to a close, gliding in the air for two power slams from the right block on ball reversals. The first dunk sent the Blue Jays' Bench, and O'Connell Center crowd out of their seats. Many were still standing on the second. Saint Joe's led 55-20 at the half. Jackson Jr. scored 18 of his 21 in the first half (4-5 3FG), while O'Neill got his 13 first-half points primarily in the paint (6-8 FG).
The Blue Jays came out on a 20-0 run to start the second half, taking a 75-20 lead with 15:14 left to play in regulation. The large lead gave the Blue Jay bench some extra reps, and they delivered on both ends. Freshman forward Sam Majek (Brooklyn, Conn.) scored six points in a hurry. He crashed the offensive glass for his first hoop, then got rewarded for running the floor with an easy layup, and made an extra-effort play on a missed free-throw, tipping the ball twice to himself, before gathering and finishing on the left side. Freshman guard Brad Landry (Wallingford, Conn.) scored on a corner three, and a layup off a good pass from the opposite side.
Junior guard Stephen Laffin (West Hartford, Conn.) scored six quick points as well, including a tip-in on the weak side to get him going, and a nice backdoor cut for a layup from freshman forward Sean Witecy (Omaha, Neb.). Freshman center Chris Cherry (Central Islip, N.Y.) worked inside for baskets in the post, while Brown matched the inside game with a transition layup and pull-up jumper. Freshman forward Kumar Brown (Enfield, Conn.) and freshman center Malik Cameron (Manchester, Conn,) also contributed offensively to close the game.
USJ will hit the road for a quick one-game trip to Colby-Sawyer (NH) in their first Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) game, Tuesday, January 8, at 7:30 p.m. Lesley will play their third conference game of the season at Elms College (MA) on Tuesday, January 8 at 6:00 p.m.