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#12 HAWKS OVERWHELM SAN FRANCISCO, 84-52, IN HOME OPENER
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  09/01/2004
PHILADELPHIA (12/2/03) -- Three wins to open the season had done more than raise Saint Joseph's AP ranking to No. 12. They had also cranked Hawk fans' anticipation -- already sky-high -- to a fever pitch. Playing San Francisco in their home opener Tuesday night, the Hawks delivered. With a sellout Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse crowd roaring from the opening tip, Saint Joseph's raced to a 29-4 lead on its way to an 84-52 thrashing. After a sloppy and improbably difficult victory over Old Dominion Saturday night, the Hawks (4-0) regained their stride against the Dons (3-4). They played with verve and crispness, making the open pass, shooting well, clamping down on defense, and rampaging their way to a romp. SJU head coach Phil Martelli, worried that his team might lose some focus in its first Fieldhouse game, admitted to a case of pre-game nerves, but was happy with the outcome. "When you have that kind of energy and enthusiasm in the building, and jump out 10-0, it's going to be difficult on the other guys," he said. The Hawks' Jameer Nelson again made his case for Player of the Year status. The Dons had no answer for the swift senior guard, who was all over the floor, notching 18 points of 8-of-12 shooting and dishing six assists against no turnovers before Martelli removed him from the game for good with 13 minutes to play. "He's the best in America," Martelli said. "That was his last first home game. He played 22 minutes and people will leave here remembering the three-quarter-court bounce pass. He's just special. There'll never be another one like him." The road-weary and undermanned Dons were never really in the game, turning the ball over a staggering 24 times and shooting just 38.5 percent from the floor. USF was without Philadelphian John Cox, the all-WCC guard, who sprained a knee in the team's season opener. Additionally, guard Jovan Harris went down with an ankle injury early in the first half and never returned. Meanwhile, Saint Joseph's enjoyed plenty of open looks and practically scored at will. Five Hawks reached double figures. Center Dwayne Jones, showing a nifty touch around the hoop, tallied 13 on 6-of-7 shooting, Delonte West and Chet Stachitas set a new career-high with 13 points, and Pat Carroll netted three treys on his way to 11 points. West chipped in with a game-high seven assists. "For a young guy with a scoring mentality, he has an understanding of how to play basketball," Martelli said of West. "The kid's first-team all-league -- he's underrated. Everyone pays attention to his scoring. He can really pass, and he can really defend." USF entered the game holding advantages in size and experience, but the Hawks' quickness and poise proved to be mitigating factors, as Martelli observed. "This team's predicated on ball pressure, sharing the basketball, and trying to run the floor as hard as we can," he said. A raucous student section, awash in crimson t-shirts, began chanting "We want cheesesteaks" before the first half ended, hoping for a 100-point night and free sandwiches at Abner's in University City. The students also offered a birthday serenade to Saint Joseph's president Timothy R. Lannon, S.J., who turned 53 Tuesday. It all added up to an early-season party at the Fieldhouse and hopes for more to come in this season of unparalleled promise. "This team deserves to be admired," Martelli said. "They play good basketball, and they're nice kids." Saint Joseph's next game is against Penn at the Palestra Saturday afternoon, December 6, in the Big 5 Classic. Game time is 2 p.m.