O'Connor's Barrage Lifts Hawks to Victory
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications
By JOE LUNARDI Special For the Daily News BOULDER, Colo.- Sometimes you just feel it. Last night at Colorado, Marvin O'Connor really felt it. The St. Joseph's guard missed seven of his first eight three-point attempts, then buried five in a row during a single second half outburst. The result was a 92-78 come-from-behind victory at the Coors Events Center. The pivotal stretch came during a one-minute, 50-second span of the second half. O'Connor drained threes on three straight trips down the floor, each one further than the one before. And the Hawks, who trailed by as many as a dozen points late in the first half, were in control, 71-63, with 8:25 to play. "They were deep," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "With Marvin, you have to ride those streaks." O'Connor led all scorers with 29 points. His six three-pointers were a career-high. With 32 points last Sunday at Vanderbilt, the 6-4 junior needed just one more against the Buffaloes to become the first St. Joseph's player to reach 30 points in consecutive games since Steve Courtin in 1964. Instead, O'Connor had to settle for the win. A week ago, his high scoring was wasted when the Hawks (3-1) lost to Vandy at the buzzer. "It's a whole different group this year," said O'Connor. "There's a different feeling in the locker room. We all thought we should have won at Vanderbilt, and the only way to make up for that was to win [last night]." For much of the first half, the Buffaloes (2-2) had other ideas. The quick-shooting, muscular Buffs were pounding the ball inside to the likes of 6-8, 245-pound Jamahl Mosley (17 points, 10 rebounds), 6-9, 240-pound Stephane Pelle (11 points, nine rebounds) and 6-11, 270-pound Richard Fox (12 points, 5-for-6 shooting). Along the way, the Hawks were trying to manage foul trouble among their own frontcourt trio of Damian Reid, Bill Phillips and Alexandre Sazanov. Colorado led, 41-29, with 2:32 left in the first half. However, a mini-run by the Hawks-capped by a perfectly conceived end-of-half three-pointer from Phillips (13 points, eight rebounds, four assists)-made it a five-point game at the break. The Hawks' carried that emotional edge into the second half, finally grabbing a lead when O'Connor dunked for 50-49 advantage at the 15:45 mark. There were eight more lead changes after that, before O'Connor finally took over the game with his personal three-point assault. In all, St. Joseph's shot 53.3 percent from the floor and 48.1 percent (13-for-27) from the arc. "What you're seeing is growth in Marvin," said Martelli. "He didn't drop his head when he was missing shots, and the other guys made a lot of big plays around him." Reid shook off a lackluster effort at Vanderbilt with 10 points and nine boards. He also played the final seven minutes with four fouls. Senior co-captain Erick Woods squeezed 10 points, including a huge "three" with 5:16 left, into his 13 minutes. Deep reserve Lionel Ngounou, the other co-captain, contributed 11 productive minutes (four points, two rebounds) after the 7-1 Sazanov fouled out with 15 minutes remaining. And then there was new point guard Jameer Nelson. All the freshman did was record a double-double (12 points, 10 assists, 7-8 FT) against only two turnovers. "We have a lot more balance this year," O'Connor said. "Five guys in double figures, that says a lot." Through four games, so have the Hawks.