PHILADELPHIA (12/09/00) - The Cardinal Rule when playing St. Joseph's has nothing to do with shutting down a particular player or playing a type of defense. The Cardinal Rule is "Never, not under any circumstances, mess with The Hawk". A Drexel cheerleader forgot that rule, pushing the Nation's number one mascot to the floor during a timeout in the first half, and that was all the motivation the St. Joe's players needed to beat the Dragons, 68-54. It was the largest margin of victory in the series, which the Hawks lead 38-5, since 1991. Sarah Brennan, the first female Hawk in school history, is fine. She upheld the fine tradition of The Hawk mascot well, fighting off her "attackers" to complete the game. The Dragon cheerleader was removed from participating in the game at halftime, and will be disciplined by the Drexel administration. But the first attack on the first female Hawk did leave the crowd, seemingly more St. Joe fans than Drexel despite it being a Dragon "home" game, agitated the rest of the game. Any time the Drexel cheerleaders performed during the second half they were met with resounding "boos". Now to the game, which was not the prettiest of contests, but one that ended in a SJU win nonetheless. That win was the fourth in a row for the Hawks, marking the first four-game win streak since the end of the 1996-97 season when SJU ran off 10 in a row before falling to #5 Kentucky in the Sweet 16. "The first half to me was somewhat like pulling teeth," stated Hawk coach Phil Martelli. "We are trying to play an ego-less game and to me there was a little ego involved. When we caught the ball we were thinking ' I am better than the guy guarding me'." "We talked really about respect at halftime. About how good a defensive team Drexel was...really filling the gaps on our dribble penetrations,. We are a team that can play quick, but not fast well. The big difference during the second half was that we were quick to our decisions and quick to our movement and therefore able to open a workable margin throughout the second half." Marvin O'Connor led the Hawks for the fifth time in seven games with 19 points. He also continued to improve upon his overall game, tying his career high with eight rebounds. Bill Phillips, who started each half with three field goals in the first four minutes, put up what has come to be consistent numbers - 16 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. He again was near flawless from the field, hitting six of eight from the field with the lone misses being a 3-pointer and a running off-balanced layup. "The guys are doing a great job of getting me the ball where I can not do anything but shoot that percentage," remarked Phillips on his uncanny field goal accuracy. "I had a lot of easy shots tonight. It is just a credit to the whole team." The game started off the Hawks tallying 10 points in the first five minutes to jump in front 10-5. But after that the SJU offense went south, but the defense stayed put, holding the Dragons to just 17 points in the opening 20 minutes on 6-of-32 from the field (18.8%). It marked the lowest output by an opponent this season, but SJU managed only 27 points, its lowest total to date, due mostly to 13 turnovers. Following intermission, the Hawks quickly built the lead to 17, 43-26, with just under 14 minutes to play, and then overcame a mini-scare when the Dragons ran off eight unanswered points to cut the lead to seven, 51-44, at the 5:40 mark on a Petric Sanders jumper. The Hawks countered with six straight to build the margin to 13 (57-44) and then coasted in for the win in front of the 4,337 who attended the matinee. Drexel's Stephen Starks, who led all scorers with 23 points, was the only Dragon to get on track offensively, hitting 8-of-11 from the field. The Drexel starting frontcourt of Jamil Moore and Mike Kouser combined for an 0-for-12 night while reserve guard Ashley Howard connected on just 2-of-15 from the floor (1-10 from 3-point range). For the Hawks, besides O'Connor and Phillips, freshman Jameer Nelson tallied double figures (10 pts), making it 7-for-7 in double digit scoring performances for the rookie point guard. Damian Reid posted career highs in assists (4) as well as turnovers (7). He finished with seven points and eight rebounds. Senior Frank Wilkins had a solid game, scoring nine points, blocking a career-high three shots while recording two assists and two steals. Now back to the main story - The Hawk. "The first time I came out when I was doing figure eights, one of their girls (cheerleaders) grabbed me," stated Brennan about the incident. "I just ran through her. Their coach then called me over and said 'I cannot endanger their girls'. I replied that I am not endangering their girls, they are coming after me. So the next time when he came after me...he saw me coming, and I was just going back to finish my figure eight. I did not know he was coming up behind me until I was on the floor. He pushed me and then his friend started to come over and tape my ankles." Brennan did get up and moved out of harms way. The fans were first stunned, then the boos rang out. To their credit, the Drexel administration stepped in and removed the cheerleader from the game and nothing more happened. So the first female to where the Hawk outfit has made her mark. She joins the ranks of her fellow Hawk brethren who have been indoctrinated in similar fashion. That is what makes the Hawk so special. No other mascot gets abused as much, and no other flaps through adversity as well. The Hawks' next opponent, Villanova, has Big Five fans chomping at the bit. This installment of the Holy War" will be a real test of how far this team has come from last year.
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