Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli thought his team was on the cusp of coming together.
And then it came apart Thursday night in the closing seconds of a 92-86 overtime loss at No. 22 VCU.
"I've been thinking for a while that we're close, we're getting near where I thought we could be," Martelli said after the Hawks blew a four-point lead in the last 14 seconds of regulation. "But everybody left a play out there — foul shot, loose ball recovery — and they did what a home team should do."
And the Hawks, in some ways, played right into VCU's hands. They committed 20 turnovers that turned into 31 points for the Rams, and forced just five giveaways, leading to three points.
"We're leaving here with a veteran team and having 20 turnovers," Martelli said.
But they also lost to a pretty good one as the Rams won their 12th straight game.
Treveon Graham scored six of his 25 points in overtime and Darius Theus added a career-high 22 points and 10 assists, four steals and no turnovers for the Rams (15-3, 3-0 Atlantic 10). Juvonte Reddic added 15 points and 17 rebounds for the Rams, who were playing their first game as a ranked team since 1984-85.
Langston Galloway had 22 points, Carl Jones 21 and C.J. Aiken had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Hawks (9-6, 1-2).
Aiken's dunk pulled the Hawks within 74-73 with 2:08 left. After VCU missed, Jones pulled up on the left wing and hit a 3-pointer to give them a 76-74 lead with 1:26 to play.
The Rams had a miserable game from 3-point territory, going 7 for 32, but Troy Daniels' first make in eight tries came with 13.8 seconds left to pull them within 79-78. After Ronald Roberts made one of two free throws for the Hawks with 11.9 seconds to go, VCU inbounded to Theus and the point guard drove for a game-tying layup.
The Hawks had 6.8 seconds to make a play, but Jones lost the handle and VCU took it away.
In the overtime, Graham fed Reddic inside for the opening basket, and after the Hawks' 35-second shot clock violation, Graham was hacked while making a 3-pointer. His four-point play made it 86-80.
Galloway scored for Saint Joseph's, but Briante Weber's 15-footer and Graham's floater made it 90-82 and the Hawks never caught up.
VCU coach Shaka Smart has said he expects games to be more intense in the Atlantic 10, and this one surely was as the Hawks came out seemingly determined to show the Rams they could run with them.
But Saint Joseph's led only once in the first half, after Galloway's three-point play made it 5-4, because the Rams followed with an 11-2 run started by a 3-pointer by Theus. It was the only shot from behind the arc VCU made in its first 14 tries, but they were 15 for 23 inside the arc.
VCU missed 13 of its first 14 3-point tries, but when Graham made one with 2:10 left in the first half, it sparked an 8-2 burst that built their lead back up to 38-30.
The Hawks had just finished a 14-4 run that featured 3-pointers by Jones and Galloway, closing a 26-14 deficit to 30-28.
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