Men’s basketball falls to Saint Joseph in second-round NCAA matchup, reflects on season

Katie Lu

Cole Prowitt-Smith refers to NESCAC wins as season highlights. (Photo courtesy of Sports Information.)

The University of Saint Joseph Blue Jays (28-1) defeated the Ephs (23-5, 7-3 in NESCAC) 75-54 in the second round of NCAA Div. III Tournament on Saturday, concluding the Ephs’ 2022-23 season. The Ephs advanced to the NCAA Tournament on account of receiving an at-large bid from the NCAA selection committee after falling to Colby in the NESCAC semifinals. This was the team’s second consecutive appearance in the tournament, which was head coach Kevin App’s fifth time during his tenure.

This season, the Ephs were known for their comebacks. In January, the team lost three conference games — against Amherst, Middlebury, and Tufts — only to go on and win five consecutive games to close out the regular season, earning the first seed and right to host NESCAC Championships. “I think the highlight, and when we kind of peaked in the regular season, was the Trinity [and] Wesleyan weekend,” Cole Prowitt-Smith ’24 said. That weekend, Prowitt-Smith scored 22 points to power a 94-79 victory over Trinity on Feb. 3, and the Ephs swept the Wesleyan Cardinals 80-62 to earn the Little Three Title on Feb. 4. “Everyone had really good games, and we were playing so well together,” he continued. “Basketball is such a team sport — when you can get everyone firing on all cylinders, everyone is at their best.”

The team’s first matchup on the national stage, against Pomona-Pitzer, followed a 66- 51 loss to Colby in the NESCAC semifinals. The Ephs struggled to overcome a heavy first-half deficit as the Mules consistently kept their lead in the double digits. “That was a game that really stung because we weren’t ourselves at all,” Prowitt-Smith said. “You have to tip your hat to Colby — they played so freely compared to us and really exploited how hot they were. They were making plays, and we just couldn’t string together our offense.”

Standout guard Evan Glatzer ’25 reflected on the Ephs’ last NESCAC game of the season. “Our mentality was to not let whatever they were doing on the offensive or defensive [ends] affect what we wanted to do with our game plan going in,” Glatzer said. “I think the saying goes, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.’”

Out of the running for the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Div. III Championship — which went to NESCAC champions Hamilton — the Ephs had to wait for the NCAA selection committee’s call. Some members of the team gathered in the office above Chandler to watch the livestreamed selection on Monday afternoon. “We felt like we put ourselves in a good position to make the tournament based on our record and wins and strength of schedule,” Glatzer said. “But it was definitely a relief to see our name on the screen.”

With its first NCAA game the following weekend, the team renewed its mindset and focused on its matchup against No. 25 Pomona-Pitzer. “At this point in the season, there’s no more ‘hard lessons’ — you lose, your season’s over,” Alex Lee ’26 said. “We wanted to be more aggressive, more competitive — deal the first few punches instead of taking them and countering.”

This out-of-the-gate aggression was exactly what the Ephs demonstrated on the NCAA court. From Declan Porter ’24.5 sinking a 3-pointer and Glatzer taking a steal coast-to-coast to Brandon Arnold ’23.5 playing lockdown defense, the team’s synchronicity and skill shined throughout the game. “That’s when we’re playing our best,” App told Sports Information. “We’re getting to the rim, we’re finishing in the paint and any time they help, we got guys to kick to that should be ready to shoot.” Prowitt-Smith and Nate Karren ’23.5 each scored 20 points for a combined 15-22 shooting performance.

For Lee, this team bond was also the key to winning the game. “There was a moment in the second half, where [Pomona-Pitzer] cut [our lead] to 13 points, and we regathered ourselves,” he said. “We could have tightened up there or, maybe got a little worried and lost a little composure, but instead, we regrouped and started playing our best basketball of the game.” Pomona-Pitzer was ultimately unable to recover, and the Ephs ended the game 25 points clear with a score of 78-53.

Heading into their second round of NCAAs, the Ephs tried to stick to their strong-start approach. The Ephs came out of the gate with strong transitions, with a block from Karren — recovered by Lee — leading to a breakaway for Glatzer. In the first five minutes of the first half, the Ephs were poised to keep their 6-4 lead over the Blue Jays. After a media timeout, Hudson Hansen ’26 sunk a shot. Despite spraining his ankle in the Pomona-Pitzer matchup, Prowitt-Smith hit a fadeaway jumper to bring the score to 10-4.

After a series of fouls from the Ephs and strong offensive drives, the Blue Jays opened up a 44-22 lead going into the second half. While the Ephs whittled the 22-point deficit down to eight in the early stages of the second half, the Blue Jays rebuilt their double-digit lead, finishing the game ahead by 19 points.

This game brought an end to the college careers of Spencer Spivy ’22.5, Ryan Moon ’22.5, and David Elien ’23. Spivy, who was injured during the NESCAC semifinals and was unable to play in the NCAA Tournament, earned All-NESCAC honors along with Karren.

“Whatever personal accolades that come with basketball itself are great and all, and you can remember and reflect on that and celebrate it,” Prowitt-Smith said. “But what really matters to me is my relationship with all the guys … We come from all over the country, and we’ve created this really special team bond. So, just to cherish that and have that for the rest of our lives — that’s what matters.”