After a tough road stretch that included trips to Saint Louis and Louisville in the last four days, the Hartford Hawks didn’t look tired as they battled back from a 12-point deficit to defeat Saint Peter’s 67-66. Junior guard Justin Graham sunk a 3-ball with 2.0 seconds left in the game with the Hawks trailing 66-64.
The Peacocks dominated the first half as junior guard Chazz Patterson came out on fire, knocking down four first half 3-balls. He scored 14 of his 16 points before the break as Saint Peter’s lead 40-31. The Peacocks shot 50 percent in the first half and 6-11 from behind the arc.
But the second half was a completely different story. Hartford used a 12-0 run in the middle of the half on four consecutive triples, two by freshman forward George Blagojevic, to knock the wind out of the Peacocks. Blagojevic finished with 12 points on 5-8 shooting and 2-4 from behind the arc, none bigger than his shot with 6:49 left which gave Hartford their first lead of the game at 53-52.
From there the game when back-and-forth until Graham’s three at the end. The Hawks inbounded the ball with 13 seconds left and inadvertently held it for the last shot. Graham says the play was supposed to go to senior guard Taylor Dyson to get a quick three but Saint Peter’s defended it well. Instead Graham hit a tough contested three while leaning towards his right, “It felt pretty good, they gave me a little space to my right, which is probably why I was leaning,” Graham said after the game. He finished with a game-high 22 points on 8-14 shooting and 3-4 from deep.
Hartford coach John Gallagher was extremely proud of his team’s energy. Gallagher said about his team’s four road games in seven days, “NBA teams don’t do this, we went Friday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday.” Adding, “I was told that earlier and started laughing.”
Gallagher, who is in his fifth year with Hartford, doesn’t think his team is even close to reaching their maximum potential in this early season. “We have not even touched the surface on how good we can be, I think we can be a really good defensive team.” His Hawks held the Peacocks to just 29 percent shooting in the second half and 0-7 from three.
Hartford is picked 6th in the America East preseason poll and after four straight games on the road to open their season, get eight of the next 11 at home.
For Saint Peter’s, if they can play a consistent game like they did in the first half of this game, they will cause some problems for the top of the MAAC this season, which they are picked 9th in the preseason poll.