One of the most intense rivalries in college basketball, "The Holy War" lived up to its billing. In the previous two years, each team won in a rout. From the start, Saint Joseph's looked as if it could run away again, but the Wildcats would not go down without a fight.
"The mental makeup of this team astonishes me," Hawks' coach Phil Martelli said. "That's as raucous an atmosphere as I've ever been in but you could just see the calm in their faces."
The Hawks used some impressive defense to go on a 23-3 run and take a 27-8 lead with 8:22 left in the first half. The Wildcats, who opened the game 2-for-15 from the field, and a dismal 1-for-8 from the foul line closed the half with a 7-0 run to get within 34-23.
Villanova's defense improved in the second half and the Wildcats made several runs at the Hawks, closing within five points twice before Andre Bloch's 3-pointer with 6:46 left had them within 54-50.
Carroll, who entered the game 22-for-34 from 3-point range over his last four games, hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to make it 60-52 with 5:47 to go.
Bloch hit another 3 with 5:30 left to make it 60-55, but Nelson and West combined for all but one of the Hawks' points the rest of the way. They went 7-for-8 from the free throw line while shooting into a blue-and-white pompon-waving Villanova student section.
Nelson had 23 points and West scored 21, the sixth time this season they both reached the 20-point mark in the same game. Carroll continued his hot shooting and was 4-for-4 in three-pointers. West matched his career-high with 11 rebounds for his second double-double, added six assists and went 10-for-10 from the foul line.
The Saint Joseph's fan base at The Pavilion numbered about 250, but close to 2,500 people showed up at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse to watch the game on large screen tvs. The crowd was just as loud and racuous as that at Villanova just six and a half miles down the road.
The Hawks continue City Series play on Saturday when they host La Salle at the Palestra in a Big 5 and Atlantic 10 game. The contest will be televised nationally on ESPN at 2 p.m.