PHILLIPS, NELSON LEAD HAWKS TO 74-68 WIN AT WESTERN KENTUCKY
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications
Bowling Green, KY (12/21/00) - A sign of a good team is its ability to overcome adversity while the sign of a great player is his ability to respond to a challenge. After Thursday night's 74-68 win over a good Western Kentucky in front of a hostile crowd at the E.A. Diddle Arena, Hawk coach Phil Martelli has to feel even stronger that he has both a good team and a few great players. Playing without the services of the nation's 10th leading scorer, Marvin O'Connor (22.3 ppg.), who is still recovering from what has now been diagnosed as a Grade 2 concussion, both Bill Phillips and Jameer Nelson stepped up to lift the Hawks to a much-needed win, snapping a two-game losing streak in the process. "I usually don't do this but in the shootaround today I told Bill Phillips that I needed him to be more assertive and for Jameer to look for his scoring opportunities to make up for Marvin being out," stated Martelli. "I felt going into the game that as long as you have Jameer Nelson and Bill Phillips you have a chance to win the game. They are all-league candidates." "I also thought that Frank WIlkins, Erick Woods, Alex Sazonov...everybody did a little part, and to win on the road that is what you need." Phillips, who scored a career high 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field, clearly did his part. The 6-10 forward also came up big when it counted, tallying five points in a 7-0 run midway through the second half that gave SJU the for good 57-52 with 12:37 to play. "Playing without Marv for the first time this year we just had to step it up," said Phillips. "I think we took it as just another challenge. It was a big road game even with Marv, and the guys had to play a little bigger since he was down." Nelson, who tallied 18 points (7-11 FGs) while dishing four assists and tying with Phillips for the team rebounding lead with a career-high eight boards,continues to impress. The savvy freshman also hit four free throws in the final 18 seconds to preserve the win after the Hilltoppers cut the Hawks lead from a high of nine, 67-58 with 4:36 remaining to two. But filling the void created by O'Connor's absence was Wilkins and Woods. The two seniors both cracked double figures, with Woods connecting on 11 points on 4-11 shooting and Wilkins scoring 10 (3-7 FGs). Both also grabbed five rebounds while playing with confidence. As a team, the Hawks worked extremely well offensively, creating easy scoring opportunities. The team shot 54.5 percent from the field for the game including 60.7 (17-28) in the first half. SJU also outrebounded a "big" team on the road for the second straight game, 33-28. Western Kentucky, coached by former Hawk assistant Dennis Felton (1991-92), was led by 7-0 junior center Chris Marcus' 15 points and eight rebounds. Raynardo Curry added 13 points while Nate Williams tallied 10 for the Hilltoppers (6-4). The Hawks, which upped their record to 7-3, also received good news off the court. Senior guard Na'im Crenshaw earned the necessary grades and is eligible to return to the team when SJU hosts St. Peter's on December 27. Crenshaw's marks were posted too late for him to catch the last available flight to join the team in Kentucky.