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HAWKS GET REVENGE OVER GONZAGA WITH OT WIN
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  09/01/2004
SPOKANE, WA (12/31/02) - Revenge. How sweet it is. And it was never sweeter for a Saint Joseph's team as on New Year's Eve in Spokane as the Hawks extracted their revenge over Gonzaga with a 79-78 overtime win, and in the process snapping the Bulldogs' 29-game win streak at The Kennel. Junior Jameer Nelson, who showed why he should be at the top of the list of point guards in the nation, led the way, scoring a career-high 34 points, including six of the Hawks' seven in the extra frame. But it was his last basket, a running lay-up with eight seconds to play that sealed the victory for SJU. "I never back away from a challenge" stated Nelson, who also tallied his 1,000th career point in the game. "I knew the ball would be in my hands (at the end of the game)." It was a career night for the Hawk leader, as he launched a personal high 26 shots, hitting 14, another career mark. He also led the Hawks in rebounds with six and steals with three. But nothing was bigger than helping the team keep its poise down the stretch as The Kennel faithful grew louder than any arena SJU has played in during its 93-year history. "The best thing he does is lead," stated an elated head coach Phil Martelli. "He has his team win by will as much as skill." It did not look like the Hawks were going to be winning at the outset as Gonzaga jumped all over the visitors from Philadelphia, taking a 10-2 lead over the first three minutes. The Bulldogs extended that to a 17-7 margin as the inside tandem of Corey Violette and Richard Fox tallied 13 points. The Hawks then went on a 19-4 run on its strength, the backcourt tandem of Nelson (6) and West (5), who combined for 11 points to make the score 26-22 SJU with 9:01 to play in the half. Then it started to have the feeling of last year's contest, an 83-80 Gonzaga win. A game, which many believe to be one of the best ever played at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse. "We thought if we could make it a five-minute game, the numbers would start to lean on their shoulders," stated Martelli on Gonzaga's home court win streak, which was the third longest in the nation. After ending the half tied at 35, the two teams traded punches over the first seven minutes of the second stanza until the Hawks opened up an eight-point lead, 58-50, on the strength of a 13-2 run. West tallied seven of his 15 points in that stretch. The Hawks extended that lead to 10, 69-59, with Nelson hitting one of his many shots in traffic, and converting a free throw to cap a three-point play with 5:10 remaining in regulation. Then the Bulldogs went on a 10-0 run to tie the game with just under three minutes to play as the crowd noise elevated to an unimaginable decibel level. Nelson stopped the Bulldog run with a three-pointer at the 1:44 mark. Gonzaga tied the game, hitting three of its 28 free throws in the contest (41 attempts), with 37 seconds to play. With the score deadlocked at 72, it felt like d?j? vu. The Hawks, holding for the final shot, worked the ball on the perimeter until Nelson launched a three-pointer from almost the exact spot that Marvin O'Connor did a year ago to the date. Like O'Connor's trey, Nelson's missed the mark, but this time the Bulldogs did not have Dan Dickau to win the game, and the contest went to overtime. It was SJU's first OT game since February 1, 2001. Stepp opened the extra frame with a long trey, to give Gonzaga a 75-72 lead. The two teams traded free throws, before Nelson hit two running lay-ups, the second off a nice feed in the lane from Tyrone Barley, to make it 77-76 SJU with 45 seconds left. Fox put the Bulldogs ahead on a put-back with 20 seconds on the clock, but SJU drove the length of the court without taking a timeout and Nelson finished it with a lay-up down the lane. "Coach said, 'if they score, we are not calling timeout', explained Nelson. "He wanted me to take it." Violette led GU with 19 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. He also hit 11-of-17 from the line, one attempt short of the Hawks' team total (18). The Hawks, now 8-1 for the first time since 1966-67, return home from their West Coast trip, to open their A-10 season against Duquesne on Sunday (4:00 p.m./CN8/WPEN 950 AM). Gonzaga falls to 8-5.