By Mel Greenberg
Saint Joseph’s ran out of comebacks Sunday in New York as revitalized Fordham topped the Hawks 70-63 in overtime in a key Atlantic 10 contest that saw the host Rams (20-7, 10-2 A-10)) in their Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx reach the 20-win total for the first time in 19 years.
It’s the second straight time in regular season play between the two teams that the game went into overtime following the arrival a year ago of former Villanova star and Saint Joseph’s coach Stephanie V. Gaitley from Monmouth to take over the Rams’ fortunes.
Fordham finishes up Sunday at Temple and besides it being a key game for seeding, the Rams can become mythical Big Five champs of the Atlantic 10 sector after previously winning at La Salle besides beating Saint Joseph’s.
The loss was a tough one for the Hawks (19-7, 10-2), who after hosting Massachusetts Wednesday finish up Sunday at front-running and No. 14 Dayton, which smothered Temple 67-47 at home in Ohio at Dayton Arena.
In another key A-10 game, Charlotte won at La Salle 73-56 Sunday in the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena.
Saint Joseph’s is bidding to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000 and it is hard to say how Sunday’s setback will be viewed, though with much left it may be too early to panic.
But the defeat puts coach Cindy Griffin’s team in a tie for third with Fordham, right now, but the Rams off Sunday’s win would get the three seed and not have to meet Dayton (24-1, 12-0) until the championship.
That game will be the same night as the conference men’s semifinals in the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, almost a week after the first three rounds will be played for the second straight year at Saint Joseph’s Hagan Arena.
The Hawks came back from a 12-point deficit in the second half to force another overtime game, their third this month, when Ilze Gotfrida scored on a jump shot from the foul line.
Fordham turned the ball over with 9.1 seconds left in regulation but the Hawks were unable to capitalize and escape.
Chatilla van Grinsven scored 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Hawks, while also getting her 1,000th career point. Ashley Prim had 15 points but no other Hawk was able to score in double figures.
Meanwhile Marah Strickland, a newcomer who previously played at South Carolina and Maryland, had a career-high 31 points for Fordham while Erin Rooney had 14 points, and Samantha Clark had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Strickland’s points are the most by a Fordham player since Meghan Mahoney scored 30 in January 2008. Her previous high had been 21 points.
Fordham has tiebreakers over Charlotte and Saint Joseph’s right now and will host defending regular-season champion St. Bonaventure Wednesday before traveling to Temple.
Duquesne is the only other team with a shot at a first-round bye, holding fifth at 20-6 overall and 9-3 in the conference.
Charlotte (22-4, 11-1) moved into sole possession of second place by winning at La Salle (8-19, 4-8) and ruining the Explorers’ senior day as Jennifer Hailey had 27 points and 18 rebounds for the 49ers, who after the season will be leaving the A-10 for Conference-USA.
Ebonee Jones scored 20 for La Salle and Shanel Harrison had 16 points.
Dayton, which upset Temple a year ago in the semifinals sending the Owls (12-15, 5-7) out of the NCAA tournament for the first time in nine years, used five players to score in double figures, paced by Andrew Hoover, who had 14 points.
It was Temple’s third straight conference loss and the Owls are now in most-win situations at Butler Wednesday and at home Sunday against Fordham to get to .500 and get in the hunt for a bid to the WNIT, barring some miracle run to the A-10 title.
Tyonna Williams had 13 points against Dayton, while Natasha Thames grabbed 18 rebounds, a career-high.
The Owls again were bedeviled with miscues, making 26 turnovers to contribute nearly half of Dayton’s points.
Only 12 of the 16 teams go to the A-10 tourney and while it looks like Temple could get there and possibly La Salle, things won’t be a little clearer until after Wednesday’s games unless Sunday will be needed on a day when all finality in the standings will occur.
Material from Saint Joseph’s, Fordham, La Salle and Temple reports contributed to this post.