Jared Leveson (@jared_leveson)
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Erik Reynolds II finished the regular season as the Atlantic 10’s second leading scorer at 19.2 ppg.
No. 10 Saint Joseph and Reynolds went up against the conference’s top scorer — George Washington senior James Bishop IV (21.5 ppg) — in the second round of the A-10 tournament on Wednesday.
The Temple Hills, Md. native didn’t carry a chip on his shoulder to show who was the better scorer. His only focus was keeping the Hawks' season alive.
“Not at all,” the 6-foot-2 Reynolds II said about out-scoring Bishop IV. “James Bishop IV is a phenomenal player. I respect him a lot. What he does is very impressive.
“But I just came out and do what I do.”
St. Joe's sophomore Erik Reynolds II scored a career-high 34 points Wednesday against George Washington. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
The All-Atlantic 10 second-team honoree outpaced Bishop IV and secured the dub on Wednesday night over the seventh-seeded Colonials at the Barclays Center. Reynolds II dropped a career-high 34 points and added six rebounds, and four assists as Saint Joseph’s upset George Washington, 87-76.
Saint Joseph’s advanced to the A-10 quarterfinals for the first time in fourth-year head coach Billy Lange’s tenure and will face No. 2 Dayton Thursday night at 5 p.m.
“When we recruited him, I told him that he was going to change the program,” Lange said of Reynolds.
The Hawks’ win on Wednesday night was a first for Lange in his tenure. St. Joe’s has not made it past the second round since the 2018-2019 season where they lost to Davidson, 70-60 in what would be Phil Martelli’s last game as head coach.
With the win over George Washington, the Hawks (16-16, 8-10 A-10) also equaled their win total from 2017-18 (16-16, 10-8), the last season they finished at .500.
“To have a game like this on our second night, it’s about endurance,” Lange said. “Our players, I thought, showed that. I know Erik [Reynolds II] had a big night statistically, but really, every single person who wore a Hawk Hill uniform tonight sharpened the next guy on the roster.
“We needed all of that to defeat GW and stay alive here in Brooklyn.”
St. Joe’s is now 5-4 all-time against GW at the A-10 tournament. The last meeting between the two in the conference tournament was in the 2016 quarterfinals when the then No. 4 seed Hawks won 86-80, en route to an A-10 tournament title that year.
Saint Joseph’s met George Washington for the third time this season on Wednesday night. The Hawks split their regular season series with the Colonials as GW won the first matchup in overtime, 92-91, on Jan. 25 while the Hawks took care of business at Hagan Arena on Feb. 11, 81-69.
The Hawks’ main focus coming into their third meeting was to contain GW’s high scoring offense which led the A-10, averaging 76.3 ppg. Bishop IV and Brendan Adams (17.5 ppg) have been a dangerous partnership all season and spearheaded GW’s offensive attack.
In their 92-91 overtime win over St. Joe’s this season, the two upperclassmen produced a combined 54 points. Lange knew it would be a difficult task to slow down the duo, but he knew that if his players could endure their scoring bursts and keep the duo away from the foul line, they’d have a chance.
Bishop went 8-for-20 from the floor for 25 points (2-of-10 for three), while Adams shot 5-of-16 from the floor for 14 points
“It’s just endurance,” Lange said. “Great players, like they are, make shots. That’s what they do. You can’t lose your spirit. It’s the endurance to continue to make things difficult. I thought we did a better job in the second half of defending Bishop without fouling. Because you can’t give them shots and points on the free-throw line.
“You have to make them make tough shots. That’s the best you can do. You hope a few miss,” he continued, “sometimes you guard hard, and they make it. Sometimes you play awful defense, truth be told, and they miss it.”
Reynolds II put together his fifth 30-plus point performance this season in SJU’s upset over GW. He went 10-of-22 from the field and 12-for-12 from the free throw line.
The sophomore guard’s performance on Wednesday followed a set of strong games against GW in their regular season meetings. He averaged 20.5 ppg during their two games, scoring 17 in the overtime loss, and pouring on a team-high 24 in their win at Hawk Hill.
But Reynolds II knew he couldn’t do it all himself.
“It feels good,” he said about scoring his career high in the win. “I give a lot of credit to my teammates though. They kept believing in me no matter how many shots I missed. I give a lot of credit to them. They did this for me.”
St. Joe's coach Billy Lange advanced to the A-10 quarters for the first time in his tenure with the Hawks on Wednesday. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Camden product Rasheer Fleming had a well-rounded game, following up fellow freshman Christian Winborne’s 16-point performance the night before against Rhode Island. The 6-foot-9 freshman played a career-high 35 minutes and more than doubled his scoring average (5.6 ppg).
Fleming had 12 points, eight rebounds, one assist, and three steals. His corner three with 1:17 to play gave the Hawks a 78-72 lead.
“The whole thing that we talk about is just becoming. It’s a huge word,” Lange said about Fleming’s development. “This world is all about arriving. So it puts a lot of pressure on these guys. That’s okay. You earned the pressure to play at a place like Saint Joseph’s, but they have to become the best player they can be, and each season is different, and each game is different.
“(Fleming) rebounded well, and he knocked down two really big threes. This is a typical freshman year. One game I’m [down] here, the next game I’m [up] here.”
“It’s just trusting your teammates,” Fleming added. “We’re all confident in each other to knock these shots down.”
St. Joe’s freshmen duo and their performances these past two games has been a plus for the Hawks, but senior Cameron Brown’s postseason play is also making a big difference.The senior captain put together an efficient night after his impressive 16-point 6-rebound game against Rhode Island in round one.
Brown, who just moved in 41st place in career points (1,134) had 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 2-of-4 from three. He also contributed seven rebounds (two offensive), one assist, three steals, and one block.
Even though he’s a senior, Brown has the option to return to Hawk Hill if he so chooses. However, Brown is only focused on Dayton; and Lange, after he said he was recruiting Brown to come back next season on Tuesday, didn’t want Brown thinking too far into the future too.
“I don’t mind you trying to recruit Cam [Brown],” Lange said to the press. “But I need him to be here tomorrow. I don’t want him to go down a path that he didn’t need to go down right now.”
St. Joe’s will face No. 2 Dayton tomorrow night. The Hawks played Dayton once on the road this season, where they lost 76-56 on January 4. The Flyers are one of the deepest teams in the A-10 and have a history of postseason success, making the semi-finals last year and in 2016 when they lost to Saint Joseph’s.
The Hawks are playing their third game in three days. Lange and Reynolds II are bent on keeping their squad focused and together.
“If we condition our minds to believe that our bodies are equipped to do this,” Lange said. “We’ll get the most out of us that we can tomorrow. We’re going to need it.”
“I feel like we’re a whole different team from then,” Reynolds II added. “We play more defense now. We play united as a team. We just learned from ourselves. We’ll be ready for tomorrow.”
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