TAMPA, FL (03/21/03) -- Head coach Phil Martelli may have put it best in a following today's 65-63 overtime loss to Auburn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. "When you join any kind of team, you are going to have days when you are going to be disappointed, when you don't get out what you put in," Martelli said. "Unfortunately for us today, we didn't get out what we put in. It's hard to lose like that. I thought we had them on the mat twice." Today in the St. Pete Times Forum, the Hawks found out the hard way that despite hours of hard work, one team has to lose. Once sophomore Pat Carroll's three-point shot was wide left with the clock nearing zeroes in the extra stanza, the unexpected Saint Joseph's run came to an end. In a dejected locker room, Carroll took the loss especially hard, as did seniors Mike Farrelly, Phil Martelli, Jr., and Alexandre Sazonov, who played their final game for the Crimson and Gray. Of course, no one related to the Hawk team took the defeat lightly -- coaches, managers, players and even the Hawk himself. The emotion in the locker room was proof of just how hard this team had worked since last season had ended in an NIT loss. After graduating more than 5,000 points of offense, not many people predicted the 2002-03 edition on Hawk Hill would do too much. The "talking heads," as Martelli refers to the pack of self-styled television hoops experts, had SJU finishing in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic 10 East. An NIT bid was within sight, an NCAA berth unlikely. But that was months ago. Junior Jameer Nelson, who had already proven his value to the team in his first two seasons, added leadership to his already complete palette. He carried the team on his back down the stretch against Auburn, as he had done the last month of the season. Sophomores Delonte West and Carroll became serious offensive threats after spending their rookie campaigns watching from the sidelines. Sazonov played some of his best basketball in the final month, closing his career with a seven-point, four-rebound effort in just 13 minutes against the Tigers. Tyrone Barley was one of the top on-the-ball defenders in the country, even though Atlantic 10 coaches may not have voted that way. Young big men Dwayne Jones and John Bryant were impressive defensive cogs in the paint. Jones showed the most improvement of any player from November to March and could be a dominant big man in the A-10. Freshmen Dave Mallon and Chet Stachitas proved valuable in their first season of college basketball. It is clear that this team did not deserve to lose. Neither team did, in fact. It was a terrific basketball game, fitting for March Madness. Martelli continued to help Saint Joseph's make a name for itself on the nation's collegiate basketball map. The loss will sting for a few days. Season-ending defeats, especially those as tight as today's, always do. But the Hawks will live to see another day. If Nelson returns for his senior season, this team could be a pre-season Top 25 pick. Even if he doesn't come back, would anyone be surprised if Martelli somehow coached SJU back into the NCAAs yet again? --Kevin Bonner/Saint Joseph's Sports Media Relations
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