WEST HARTFORD, Conn.— Senior guard Joe Tamburro (South Windsor, Conn.) scored a game-high 26 points including the game-winning three with just 8.2 seconds left in regulation to power the Emmanuel College men's basketball team past host University of Saint Joseph (CT), 77-72, inside the O'Connell Athletic Center on Thursday night in Great Northeast Athletic Conference action.
The Saints (10-4, 2-0 GNAC) have won eight of their last nine games while the last four losses for the Blue Jays (9-7, 0-2 GNAC) have been by five points or less. It also marks the first 2-0 start in GNAC play for Emmanuel since the 2011-12 squad opened GNAC play with a 3-0 record.
With the game tied at 72-72, Tamburro burried a deep three from the left wing with just over eight seconds left to go up 75-72. USJ called timeout and had the ball with a chance to tie, but freshman point guard Delshawn Jackson Jr. (Hartford, Conn.), who had hit a three to give USJ the lead late in the action, had the ball stripped in his attempt to hit one more, sealing the game for the Saints. Sophomore center Mike Sagay (Bloomfield, Conn.) led the Blue Jays with 14 points, but shot just 5-for-13. Freshman forward Noreaga Davis (Bridgeport, Conn.) finished one rebound shy of another double-double (12 PTS, 9 REBS), while freshman guard Brad Landry (Wallingford, Conn.) was a spark off the bench, scoring 10 points, grabbing six rebounds, and dishing out four assists.
The Saints controlled the pace most of the way. They jumped out to an 18-10 lead with just over 11:00 left in the first half, thanks in part to a barrage of threes from Tamburro, senior guard Isaiah Ruffen (Haverhill, Mass.) and sophomore forward Marcus Fox (Danbury, Conn.). The Blue Jays came roaring back behind the efforts of Landry, freshman guard Chris Childs (Bronx, N.Y.), and freshman guard Cameron Sells (Ansonia, Conn.), part of an 18-8 run to take the lead, 28-26 with 5:20 left in the first half.
Tamburro scored 13 points in the final five minutes of the half to give the Saints a five point lead, 41-36 going into the locker room. He did it behind three threes, one which came with just 40 seconds left in the opening stanza.
The Blue Jays struggled to breakthrough in the second half. The big threes and extra effort lay-ins kept the Saints in front, taking an 11-point lead on multiple occasions. USJ would trim the gap to eight, seven, even five, but couldn't get that big run that they needed to get over the hump, that is, until the final three minutes. Down 67-63, Landry drilled a three to narrow the gap to one. A minute and a half later, Jackson Jr. made his first triple of the game, a triple on a pass from Davis with 1:16 left. The Blue Jays had the lead, 71-69.
Needing a stop, the Blue Jays looked to deliver, only the hot three-point shooting continued on, as junior guard Blake Hardy (Waterbury, Conn.) sank a huge three with 52 seconds left to give the Saints the lead back, 72-71. Next possession, Sells got to the foul line for USJ, looking to take the lead. He sank the first, but missed the second, giving EC a chance to win with a make, or play for overtime with a miss. Blake found Tamburro for another three, his sixth of the game, and the Saints took a 75-72 lead with eight seconds left. Down three, the Blue Jays had a chance, just as they did against Colby-Sawyer. Jackson Jr. looked to hoist up a three for the tie, but was stripped by junior guard Emmett Riddick (Middletown, Conn.), and the Saints held on for the win in a thrilling finish.
Along with Tamburro's big night, the Saints got strong efforts from Fox who finished with 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting while Riddick added 12 points in the win. Ruffen posted a game-high 11 rebounds marking his ninth game this season with 10+ boards.
USJ looks to bounce back and get their first Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) win at Saint Joseph's (ME), Saturday, January 12, at 3:00 p.m. Emmanuel continues their road trip at Pine Manor (MA), also on Saturday at 3:00pm.
*Release courtesy of USJ Sports Information Dept.
*Photo by Steve McLaughlin Photography