Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  09/01/2004
PHILADELPHIA (12/01/01) ? Life with a bullseye on your back is not easy. Just ask the #19 Saint Joseph's Hawks. For the fourth time in five games, SJU has struggled against an underdog. This time it was Canisius, a 20-win team a year ago from the MAAC, but one a nationally-ranked program, playing at home, should have little difficulty with. That was not the case on Saturday night at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse as the Golden Griffins hung around long enough to give SJU fans a scare before succumbing to the Hawks,82-76. The win was SJU's fourth in a row, and 13th straight at the Fieldhouse. "Team's like Eastern Washington and Canisius, they see that #19 or 21 or whatever we are and they are going to get fired up for it," stated sophomore point guard Jameer Nelson. "Maybe that inspired them to play a little harder." Nelson, who had his best game this season, was one of the main reasons SJU survived the upstart Golden Griffins. The Hawk floor general scored 13 of his season-high 21 points in the second half, including eight in a 15-5 run that pushed the Hawks to a comfortable 68-54 lead with just under eight minutes to play. Nelson also helped thwart the upset bid with a huge three-pointer with 3:24 to play to stop a 14-2 Canisius run. "At that point we were struggling a little bit with our shooting, so I felt as though I needed to start shooting the ball a little more," said Nelson, who also added eight rebounds and six assists. "Fortunately, my shots were going down." Na'im Crenshaw was the other reason the Hawks posted win number four on the season. The fifth-year senior southpaw tied his career-high with 24 points, hitting 6-of-12 from the field (5-of-9 from 3-point range). His offense was much-needed as All-American Marvin O'Connor had a rough shooting night (6-of-18, 2-of-10). "We just tried to dog (O'Connor) as much as we could, but Nelson picked them up. That's why they're such a good team, they have a great backcourt," Canisius head coach Mike MacDonald said. "We thought Na'im Crenshaw would be the key and it ended up he was." Senior Bill Phillips, who tied his career-high with seven assists, had his best game on the backboards, grabbing a season-high 12 rebounds, but that was offset by Canisius' 16 offensive rebounds. All told, the Golden Griffin's won the battle of the glass, 39-38. "We felt that they would try and spread us out and shoot the threes (10-23 from long-range)," stated Hawk coach Phil Martelli. "The one thing that we were not attentive to which is disappointing is that if you shoot long shots you are going to have long rebounds and we did not cover the backboard well enough. To give that team 16 offensive rebounds, that will hurt us against a bigger stronger team." Alexandre Sazonov, who started in place of Damian Reid, blocked two more shots, but grabbed only two rebounds. Reid, who had a string of 95 straight starts snapped because he was late to the team's morning shoot-around, pulled down just five rebounds. Martelli downplayed the fact that teams maybe targeting the Hawks now that they are among the nation's elite. "That is a myth, that teams play harder (against ranked teams)," added Martelli. "Every team plays hard, no matter who the opponent is." Hodari Mallory led Canisius (1-2) with 15 points and seven rebounds. Andy Bush added 14 for the Golden Griffins. SJU, now 4-1, will take on Pennsylvania in the Big Five Classic on December 8 (3:00 p.m.). That game will be the middle game of three to be held at the Palestra with La Salle and Drexel pl aying at 1:00 p.m. and Villanova and Temple tangling at 8:00 p.m.