STANDISH, Maine — The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) men's basketball team led by double-digits at the half, but could not stop the onslaught of threes, and dribble drives from Saint Joseph's College (SJC) in the second half, as it lost its third-straight conference game, 98-87, inside the Harold Alfond Center Saturday afternoon.
The game belonged to SJC senior guard Ian Mileikis (Auburn, Maine), who finished with a triple-double (30 PTS, 10 REBS, 10 ASSTS). Sophomore guard Jack Casale (Portland, Maine) was red-hot from deep (5-9 3FG), good for 28 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Four players scored 14 points or more for the Monks (12-3, 2-1 GNAC).
Freshman point guard Delshawn Jackson Jr. (Hartford, Conn.) had a career-day in a losing effort—34 points (11-21 FG, 7-11 3FG), four rebounds, three assists and three steals. He was just two points shy of the all-time team record (Sagay, 36). Sophomore center Mike Sagay (Bloomfield, Conn.) added in 12 points on 3-for-8 shooting for the Blue Jays (9-8, 0-3 GNAC).
The first half played very much like an old-fashioned shootout, as both teams shot over 50% from the floor, and combined to shoot 15-of-28 from three. The game was tied, 7-7, through the first three minutes. Blue Jay head coach Jim Calhoun immediately called timeout, as he did not like what he was seeing defensively. It was all Blue Jays from there, as Jackson Jr. dominated the first half, nailing five three-pointers, good for 15 points, along with four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
The Monks mixed in some man-to-man defense on made baskets, and a 2-3 zone on a miss. USJ took advantage of that 2-3 zone, as Jackson Jr., freshman forward Ryan O'Neill (Litchfield, Conn.), and Sagay all converted from deep. A 12-2 run gave USJ the lead, 19-9, with 14:22 left in the first half.
The Monks battled back, as senior guard Darian Berry (Rochester, N.H.) and Casale combined to hit seven first-half threes. They also combined for six turnovers though, allowing the Blue Jays to get out and run. USJ had just six turnovers the entire first half, and maintained a seven to 13 point lead the remainder of the half. Each time the Monks cut it to seven, there was an answer. It would come in the form of a three from Jackson Jr., or extra effort from the Blue Jay bench, which outscored the Monk bench 17-5 in the first 20. Big's bruised their way inside as well, including freshman forward Noreaga Davis (Bridgeport, Conn.), freshman forward Jake Sullivan (Branford, Conn.) and Sagay, as USJ outscored SJC in the paint 20-8 in the first half. USJ led 52-40 at the break.
Two quick layups to open up the second half breathed some life back into the Alfond Center, as Berry and senior forward Marc Corey (Londonberry, N.H.) both got free for scores. Calhoun called another quick timeout, the score 52-44 with 18:55 left in the second half.
The Monks kept on coming though, as they opened the second half on a 20-5 run to regain the lead, 60-57 with 13:48 to play. SJC did it with unselfish basketball, making numerous passes off hard drives to the hoop, before finding an open man for a shot. They also continued to shoot the lights out from deep, as Corey, Casale and Mileikis all nailed a triple during the run.
The game started to stall out through the midway point of the half, Jackson Jr. slowing the game down for USJ, carrying the team on his shoulders. Jackson Jr. nailed three of four free throws, along with a pull-up jumper from the top of the circle to keep USJ alive. USJ led 68-67 with 9:08 to go.
From there on, it was all Monks, as Mileikis, who scored 20 of his 28 in the second half, took over, either by scoring it himself or dishing to teammates. The Monks outscored USJ 31-17 over the final nine minutes, the run starting on a posturizing dunk on a fastbreak by Casale, sending the crowd in a frenzy. The Blue Jays shot just 12-for-32 in the second half (38%), while the Monks shot 20-for-28 (71%), outscoring the Blue Jays by 23 points in the final 20 minutes.
USJ looks to get their first Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) win back home against Lasell this Thursday, January 17, at 7:00 p.m. SJC is back at it on Tuesday, January 15, when they host Bowdoin (ME) at 8:00 p.m.