Nashville, TN - Once, maybe...but twice in two nights, what are people going to think? After posting just three wins with the margin in double figures in all of 1999-2000, the St. Joseph's Hawks have opened this season with back-to-back "easy" wins. SJU, 2-0, posted all five starters in double figures led by junior Damian Reid (16 points). The Hawk center was joined by junior Bill Phillips, who posted his second straight double-double (14, 10 rebs.), junior Marvin O'Connor (14), freshman Jameer Nelson (12, 9 assists, 5 steals) and senior Frank Wilkins. "I think it was the challenge to play two nights in a row, and to actually play with a big lead two nights in a row," stated SJU coach Phil Martelli. "I don't think we responded as well tonight. Our foul shooting (19-30, 63%) to win big games and that is what we are trying to do - win big games." The Hawks trailed for just 23 seconds, falling behind 5-4 with just under four minutes gone in the opening stanza before running off 11 unanswered points to move out to a 15-5 lead with 14 minutes to play in the half. Nelson tallied six points in the run, converting a three-point play then draining a "three" within a 30-second span. "He has a knack for what is needed," remarked Martelli on Nelson. "Early on I thought his defense, with four steals, (was key), so he does really give you something." The Bulldogs (0-2) cut the lead to six, 20-14, at the mid-point of the stanza before a 13-6 run put SJU ahead 33-20 with 6:45 on the clock. Phillips, who hit 6-of-7 from the field, hit his two 3-pointers during the run. He is now 13-of-15 from the field for the season, 3-of-4 from three-point range. "I am getting a lot of layups," said Phillips on his shooting. "That is why I am shooting such a high percentage. I have had only a couple of outside shot attempts, and getting the ball inside has been somewhat emphasized this year." "Billy has a good feel for the game and has a sense of what is needed," stated Martelli. "We were bumping along a little bit and I thought that he gave it to us early against the zone." SJU built the margin to 20, before settling for a 44-26 halftime lead. The second half saw the margin increase to 23, 59-36 with just over 12 to play before the game took an ugly turn. Both teams paraded to the foul line with the Bulldogs nibbling away at the margin, but never closing under double figures. "We did not play well in the second half," stated Phillips. "We have to work on closing out games better especially after last season when we did not win a lot of games that we led in the second half." "Our intensity defensively, now whether we got tired mentally, waned in the second half," commented Martelli. "But again, 84 points and contributions off the bench, we have to take all the 'glass half full ideas' that we can, and build upon it." SCSU was led by LaRon Mapp's 19 points. The Hawks will conclude the America's Youth Classic with a 7:00 pm (EST) contest against the host Vanderbilt Commodores. Vandy, also 2-0, downed Western Carolina, 85-63, in the first game.
RELATED