PHILADELPHIA (2/13/01) ? Before the game, they celebrated milestones. Afterward, they played them down. On a night where St. Joseph's honored head coach Phil Martelli for notching his 100th career win and junior guard Marvin O'Connor for scoring 1,000 career points, the Hawks took the court with a Temple team desperately needing a win to resuscitate its NCAA Tournament hopes, and wound up further bolstering their own with a 71-62 victory in front of a rabid, sold-out crowd and a national TV audience. Prior to the game, a lot of attention had been paid to the Hawks' alleged lack of respect in the national polls, a factor that Martelli and his players dismissed. "These guys want only one thing, and that's to win every forty minutes," said Martelli. "To have a number in front of your name, for recruiting it might be nice because you get your scores on the national report every night, and the fans would delight in it. But we told these guys that all the notoriety, the awards, all the honors will come if we win." The winning continued with a solid effort against a team many consider to be a benchmark, not only in the city but in the conference as well. The win was their sixth straight, the 14th in the last 15 games, and marked the first time that the Hawks have beaten Temple twice in one season since 1985-86, when Martelli was in his first year on the St. Joseph's bench as an assistant. That team went on to win the Atlantic 10 Championship, a point that was not lost on those with an eye for such things. "We feel that the road to the title in the Atlantic 10 goes through Temple," said Martelli. "To be the champion, you have to beat the champion. The A-10 may crown different people at the end of years, but Temple will always be the champion that you have to beat." If St. Joseph's ends up being the team the conference crowns this year, they will look to this game as perhaps their coronation. It was a group ceremony. The Hawks were led by O'Connor and Jameer Nelson, who each had 17 points in the contest. Bill Phillips, who Martelli calls his most valuable player, turned in an outstanding all-around performance with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and a career-high 7 assists. If tap-backs were a statistical category, Phillips may have had a triple-double. Na'im Crenshaw had 12 points off the bench, including two straight threes in a key stretch in the middle of the second half. Alex Sazonov was a major factor in the paint, with three blocks, several altered shots and two dunks. The Hawks were so efficient and so patient in their half-court sets that Temple abandoned their vaunted matchup zone, the John Chaney trademark, with twelve minutes remaining. It was a great effort by a good team that knows it and plays that way. Following the game, the recognition began arriving. First up was the legend across the court. "When John Chaney tells you that you have a good team, you have a good team," said Martelli. "I respect a lot of people's opinions, but none more than John Chaney." "They're a very good team," noted Chaney. "They're a good passing team. This team can go. If Phil can keep their heads about them, they can go." The Hawks got off to a solid start, led by O'Connor, who hit his first four shots, including two three-pointers. At the first media timeout, it was O'Connor 10, Temple 9. The Owls were doggedly establishing their inside game, feeding center Kevin Lyde repeatedly. Lyde was a force, scoring 8 of Temple's first 13 points and causing Hawk center Damian Reid to pick up two quick fouls. In came Sazonov, who altered shots and the face of the game. Over the next three minutes, the seven foot-one sophomore blocked two shots, caused a traveling violation, and visibly affected Lyde. Lyde finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds, but he was made to work for all of them. With the score tied at 13-13, Sazonov blocked a Lyde shot, leading to a Nelson drive for a basket. Erick Woods hit a three-point bucket to stretch the lead to five, and Phillips followed a pair of misses with a putback that made the score 20-13. A Frank Wilkins drive stretched it to 22-13 before Sazonov bailed out Lyde underneath the basket after the big man had trapped himself between three Hawks. Lyde hit one free throw to break the run, but the tone had been set. The Owls went on a quick 5-0 run before Nelson launched a three-pointer to kick off a 15-2 run that put the Hawks up by 16 with under a minute remaining in the half. Coming out of a media timeout with 2:49 left, Sazonov dunked off a pretty feed from Phillips, then rebounded a miss by Lyde. After dropping an entry pass in the lane, the Muscovite dove to the floor to save the ball to O'Connor, who fed Nelson for an NBA-three-pointer that stretched the lead to 35-21. It was a sequence that defined the effort the Hawks gave and the way the shots were falling for them. Following the half, an already thin Temple squad received bad news when forward Ron Rollerson fell awkwardly after grabbing a rebound from Wilkins. Rollerson lay on the court for several minutes before being helped to the locker room, and was cheered loudly by the sell-out crown at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse when he was able to get up. But Chaney's depleted bench would be a factor the rest of the game. "It's a lot of man coming down on that foot," said Chaney of Rollerson, who is 6'10 and tips the scales at 290 pounds. "I gotta go find another walk-on. I've got one guy who's sick (Rouldra Thomas), and I've got to move everyone out of his room so I don't lose anyone else. You might see me out there playing in a bikini." Despite the loss of Rollerson, the Owls put up a game effort, eventually clawing back to within five, at 55-50 following a technical foul on O'Connor, who had just been fouled by Quincy Wadley. On the possession granted by the foul, Lyde, playing against Reid, made a spin move and broke to the basket for a sure dunk, only something was missing. Nelson, lurking in the lane, had poked the ball out of Lyde's grasp and off his knee out of bounds. "He ended up losing the ball because of the little boy (Nelson)," said Chaney of the key play. "That was a sure dunk. We would've cut it to three, sitting on a timeout." But whenever the Owls started to make a run, the Hawks had an answer. "We never blinked," said Martelli. "That's what Temple does, they try to make you blink. Once you blink, there they go. We never blinked." And now, perhaps, more eyes will be on the Hawks.
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