Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  09/01/2004
PHILADELPHIA (01/13/02) ? The match-up of Saint Joseph's vs. St. Bonaventure has produced some classic games in recent years, and this Sunday's contest at the Fieldhouse had it all: two talented teams gunning for early season conference supremacy, exciting play up and down the court, high emotions, a sellout crowd, several lead changes, a spirited homecoming for a local player and in the end, an important Hawks victory, 93-87. The Bonnies (10-5 overall, 2-2 A-10), have no regular taller than 6-6 and play a fast-paced game to take advantage of their quickness and minimize their lack of size. In fact, entering the game SBU averaged more points per game (83.9) than the high-scoring Hawks (78.0). St. Joe's opened the scoring with a dunk by senior center Damian Reid but quickly fell behind as Bonnies sophomore point guard Marques Green put up five straight points on two free throws and a 3-pointer. The quicksilver Green, a Norristown High graduate where he had some epic battles with Hawk freshman Pat Carroll's Hatboro-Horsham team, scored 23 points and handed out four assists while playing all 40 minutes. Standing just 5-7 and weighing 150 pounds, Green evoked memories of Shandue McNeil, another diminutive point guard who starred for the Bonnies in the mid-1990s. The Hawks did not regain the lead until seven minutes into the half on a lay-up by All-American Marvin O'Connor to make the score, 16-15. Continuing to progress from a painful toe injury suffered in the Georgia State game, O'Connor led the Hawks with 24 points, dished out five assists and grabbed three rebounds in playing a fine all-around game. The teams traded baskets for several minutes, and neither squad held more than a four-point advantage until Reid converted a 3-point play with 6:18 remaining to give the Hawks a 33-26 lead. The Bonnies pulled within one, 38-37, on two free throws by sophomore guard Patricio Prato, but would get no closer before the half ended. With the score 44-40 and 1:04 left in the half, senior forward Bill Phillips hit a three-pointer to put the Hawks up 47-40. Phillips had a terrific game, scoring 19 points and coming down with 12 rebounds to register his first double-double of the season. He shot 6-7 from the field, including 5-6 from 3-point range, and also contributed three assists and a blocked shot while playing 39 minutes. St. Bonaventure coach Jan van Breda Kolff was impressed. "Saint Joseph's is a tough team to defend because of Phillips," he said in his post-game press conference. "He's an atypical 4-man in that he comes out to the perimeter. He's an excellent passer, makes great decisions and can step out and hit 3s. Not many teams have a guy like that. He reminds me of [former Kentucky star and current Utah Jazz forward] Scott Padgett." Point guard Jameer Nelson closed the scoring for the half by swishing a three-pointer from the top of key as the buzzer sounded, firing up the crowd and sending the Hawks to the locker room with a 50-40 lead. Nelson only played 11 minutes in the first half because he picked up two early fouls. In his place, sophomore backup point guard Tyrone Barley played well, contributing nine minutes, tough defense and even a pair of three pointers. The 10-point intermission lead was short-lived, however. Three-pointers by Green and Prato within the first 1:27 of the second half closed the gap to 50-46. The Bonnies kept pushing and with 12:45 remaining they regained the lead, 60-59 on a tip-in by freshman guard Mike Gansey. They extended the lead to 63-59 on a 3-point play by star senior guard J.R. Bremer. The explosive Bremer, who entered the game second in the country in scoring at 26.3 points per game, was held below his average, but still managed 22 points on 6-of-17 shooting. Down four after giving up a 10-point lead, it was gut-check time for SJU, and the team responded, going on a 13-3 run to take a 72-66 lead with 7:59 remaining in the contest. "I was never scared [when we fell 4 points behind]," commented Phillips. "I didn't feel like we lost control. That is something we've been trying to address all year. We do well and then let up. We still have to work on it." The Hawks' lead ballooned to 82-71 on a lay-up by Nelson with 5:07 remaining. But anyone who expected the Bonnies to pack it in was mistaken. Turning up the defensive pressure, St. Bonaventure closed to 88-82 with 1:45 left on a clutch 3-pointer by Green. SJU freshman Delonte West extended the lead to 89-82 on a free throw with 30 seconds left, but missed the second one. Bonnies senior forward Robert Cheeks then threw down a dunk on the other end and St. Bonaventure was within five, 89-84 with just 19 seconds remaining. Gansey fouled O'Connor on the inbound pass, and with the Bonnies in the penalty, the senior coolly drained two free throws to make the game 91-84 with 17 seconds to go. But SBU had one last gasp left. With 11 seconds on the clock, Green sank a jumper and was fouled by O'Connor. He hit the foul shot and the score was 91-87. The Bonnies immediately fouled Phillips, who sunk both free throws to give the Hawks a 93-87 lead with nine seconds left, thus ending any threat. Finally, the fans at the Fieldhouse could breathe a little easier. "There was great sharing of the ball today," stated SU coach Phil Martelli. "The bench had a big impact on the game and we did a good job of getting to the three-point line. We took steps in the right direction, made big shots and took the right shots." The Hawks, now 9-4 and tied atop the A-10 East standings with Temple at 3-0, next host Fordham on Wednesday (7:00 p.m.). Brian W. Ferrie '98 is a Hawk Hoop Club Contributing Writer