PROVIDENCE, RI – Senior guard Zach O'Brien (Schenectady, N.Y.) poured in a career-high 35 points to help Saint Joseph's (11-4, 7-2 GNAC) defeat Johnson & Wales University (5-11, 4-5 GNAC) 83-71, in a rematch of the 2011 GNAC men's basketball championship on Saturday afternoon.
Saint Joseph's endured a slow start and trailed 36-33 going into the locker room at halftime, but the Monks' offense came to life in the second stanza with a 65.4% effort from the floor and a 12-12 performance from the free throw line in the closing 20 minutes. The lights-out shooting show led to the Monks owning a 50-35 advantage in the second half and resulted in the eight-point triumph.
Free-throw shooting played a pivotal role in today's result, as the Monks – led by a 9-9 effort from O'Brien - made all 19 attempts from the stripe en route to the triumph. The Wildcats made just two freebies in four bids on the afternoon.
The Wildcats raced out to a 10-0 lead in the opening three minutes of play and held a 19-6 advantage when junior Matt Williams (Mt. Kisco, N.Y.) made a layup with 13:16 left in the first half. St. Joe's responded with a 16-3 run and knotted the game at 22-apiece on a layup by O'Brien with 8:27 on the clock. The conference counterparts would then trade leads for the remainder of the stanza with JWU taking the 36-33 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The two teams battled back and forth in the early parts of the second half with the score tied 50-50 on a three-point play by Thomas with 12:13 left in regulation. The Monks then used a 13-5 run, capped by a three-pointer from O'Brien, to take a 63-55 advantage with 5:47 on the clock. Saint Joseph's proceeded to take control of the game down the stretch for the 83-71 victory.
Overall, St. Joe's shot 49.1% (28-57) from the field and 34.8% (8-23) from three-point range and was perfect, 19-19, from the FT line in the victory. Johnson & Wales countered by shooting 50.8% (30-59) from the floor, 36.8% (7-19) from downtown, and 50% (4-8) from the charity stripe in a losing effort.
For the Monks, senior Chris Petzy (Kensington, N.H.) and sophomore Matt Medeiros (Westport, Mass) each had 13 points in the victory. Sophomore Clark Noonan (Bangor, Maine) was also in double-figures with 10 points for the visitors.
Johnson & Wales was led by senior All-American Lamonte Thomas (Providence, R.I.) with 25 points, nine assists and four rebounds while fellow senior James Folk (Lawrence, Mass.) had 19 points and seven caroms for the Wildcats. Senior Mike Harris (Providence, R.I.) had 11 points and two assists in the setback.
With the victory Saint Joseph's improves to 6-4 in the history of the series with Johnson & Wales. The Monks and Wildcats split the regular-season set last season – with SJC winning 84-80 in double OT in Standish and JWU notching a 106-90 victory in Providence - but Johnson & Wales defeated St. Joe's, 76-66, in the GNAC Championship at the Alfond Center on February 26th and advanced to the NCAA Tournament with the automatic qualifier awarded to the conference.
Saint Joseph's will host Mount Ida College in a conference bout on Thursday at 6:00 PM while Johnson & Wales returns to action on Tuesday with a home contest versus GNAC foe Anna Maria College on Tuesday at 7:00 PM.
THANKS IN PART TO JOHNSON & WALES SPORTS INFORMATION
Saint Joseph's College, founded in 1912 by the Sisters of Mercy, celebrates its Centennial year in 2012 with a theme of "Realize the Promise" – honoring our commitment to educating well-rounded graduates who combine career focus with classic liberal arts studies. A Private, Catholic, primarily residential, coeducational liberal arts institution, Saint Joseph's welcomes students of all ages and all faiths. The campus, located 18 miles northwest of Portland and just two hours from Boston, encompasses 350 acres along the shore of beautiful Sebago Lake in Standish, Maine. Enrollment ranges between 1,000 and 1,100 students annually. Saint Joseph's offers challenging academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education, nursing and business fields in a value-centered environment.