PHILADELPHIA (12/27/00) - St. Joseph's breezed to a 79-69 win over visiting St. Peter's in its first home Christmas Week game in nearly 20 years. No surprise there. In fact, the sold out Fieldhouse crowd came more for what happened at the 12:45 mark of the first half than for anything else that transpired in a what turned out to be a sloppily played game. That was the first appearance of senior swingman Na'im Crenshaw on the court this season. The Hawk fans applauded the return of Crenshaw, who missed the first 10 games of the season due to an academic suspension imposed by head coach Phil Martelli. Crenshaw, who made the grade set by his coach to return, tallied eight points on 3-of-6 shooting (2-4 3PT) over 18 minutes of play. He looked out of place at the start, but seemed to fit nicely back into the Hawk lineup during the second half. "I met with the players yesterday individually and Na'im surprised me with what he said," stated Martelli. "He said 'I just want you to tell me what you want me to do to help this team.' Now this is a two-year starter...I think that there is a certain amount of attitude, a chip on their shoulders from having been beaten (past three years). And this is a product of that." "What he should allow us to do is to be more of a pressure team," added the Hawk coach on what Crenshaw's return means. "We are a pretty good perimeter defensive team, he does allow us to kind of slide...Bill Phillips would be playing to his knees if we played him 40 minutes every night. So we are able to slide Frank (Wilkins) and make him the second big guy. " "He has been shooting the ball real well in practice and that gives us another perimeter threat," continues Martelli. "He is a good player, and I have to figure that out (fitting him into the rotation) and I will as we go along." "We are all real excited since he has worked hard for us on the court all year in practice giving us everything he had, and obviously he has done what he had to do in the classroom," stated junior Bill Phillips, who contributed another fine game (10 pts, 6 rebs., 5 asts.). "Once he gets back into the flow of things, he will help our offense run smoother, and give us another threat on the perimeter." All coaches should have the problem facing SJU's affable coach. But Martelli will somehow find a way to "fit" Crenshaw, the team's second leading scorer the past two years into a formidable lineup that is 'chomping at the bit' for a chance to take on a wide open Atlantic 10 Conference field. This contest with St. Peter's fell at the perfect time for the Hawks' coach. It afforded him the opportunity to experiment with different combinations on the floor and allow him to look at the results without having to worry too much about the consequences. The Peacocks, 2-9, came into the game ranked 223 on the latest RPI report while the Hawks stood at 38th overall. The opening minutes showed the difference between the two teams as SJU jumped out to a 14-2 lead as St. Peter's turned the ball over on five of its first six possessions. The Hawks extended the margin to 20, 33-13, by the 7:23 mark of the opening stanza, and from there the toughest part for the Crimson and Gray was keeping an interest. "It is tough," stated junior center Damian Reid, who led all scorers with 16 points. "Anyone who plays sports knows that when you play someone that is not quite of your caliber you tend to play down. I think we were lackadaisical sometimes but coach does his best to keep us focused. That is what we have to do to reach the next level." Trailing by just 13, 45-32 at intermission, St. Peter's made a run at the Hawks at the start of the second period, cutting the deficit to single digits, 52-43 prior to the first TV timeout. SJU then woke up, going on a 14-0 run with Crenshaw capping it with one of his two three-pointers at the 10-minute mark putting the Hawks ahead 66-43. The Hawks kept the lead in the twenties until an 11-0 run in final two minutes cut the margin to a respectable 10 points. Besides Reid, the Hawks had solid performances from seniors Frank Wilkins, who contributed seven points, including an awesome left-handed jam, and three assists, and Erick Woods, who scored 10 points and dished a career high four assists, more than his season total (3) entering the game. On the reverse side, Marvin O'Connor struggled in his first game back from a Grade II concussion. The nation's 10th leading scorer hit just 3-of-11 shots for eight points. Freshman Jameer Nelson also was off his game, tallying a season low five points while dishing four assists. Nelson only played 19 minutes, however, as he was plagued with foul trouble. The Hawks, 8-3, will host Delaware on Saturday, December 30 at 7:00 PM. These games are the first home games during Christmas Week since SJU hosted Bucknell at the Fieldhouse on December 30, 1981. SJU won that one, 71-58.
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