PHILADELPHIA (12/30/00) - Nine wins before the New Year! Now that is something that Hawk fans can celebrate. Does it matter that the ninth St. Joseph's win came in an ugly fashion in front of a mere 1,732 brave soles that ventured out in the midst of a winter storm to watch a forgettable 72-67 foul-plagued victory over a scrappy Delaware squad. Definitely not! What matters is that these Hawks have found a way to win the games they are supposed to win. And come March, when the NCAA committee meets to decide which teams go to "the dance", that will count for something. Especially when A-10 RPI leader St. Bonaventure (#7 on latest report) is dropping a home game to Canisius. "My biggest concern at halftime was that Jameer was not sharp, Billy Phillips was not sharp," stated Hawk Coach Phil Martelli. "You want to atrribute it to all the natural reasons, the weather, this, that, etc. But that was bad offensive basketball for a team that has been playing great offensive basketball." "I would like to give them some credit, but to be honest I think we did alot of this to ourselves, and did not play particularly well, but we will take the result," he added. Ugly. Let's talk ugly. The game was marred by 57 personal fouls. It was slowed not by the storm, but the parade to the foul line which featured 75 free throws, 46 of which were attempted by the Hawks. Two SJU players - Bill Phillips and Jameer Nelson - fouled out, while Delaware point guard Austen Rowland, who struggled all night (1-10 FGs, 4 points) also took an early seat on the pines. Seven other players in the game survived finished with four fouls. "There was no rhyme or reason to a game like that, no flow. It is a basketball game, there is supposed to be a flow to it," lamented the Hawk coach. "People want to come out to a game in this weather to see people walk to the foul line. It is not right. It is not the intent (of the new NCAA directives for calling games closer)." For as close as the game was, the Hawks trailed only twice all evening, early in the second half, and for a grand total of 41 seconds. With the game tied for for the fifth time of the evening, and the second in the final 20 minutes, Nelson, who tied his career high for the third time with 20 points, drained consecutive "threes" to give SJU a six-point cushion 44-38, with 11:12 to play. The Hawks gradually built the lead to 11, 57-46, with just under four minutes to play and held off a barrage of late 3-pointers, including one four-point play by the Blue Hens' Billy Wells (20 points) with 52 seconds left for the win. Marvin O'Connor, who at times looked to be the lone offensive weapon for SJU, finished with a game-high 21 points. He looked to be back to his old self, draining 5-of-12 shots, 3-of-8 from 3-point range, while grabbing six rebounds. Nelson, who was not sharp as Martelli pointed out, still hit a career high four 3-pointers and drained all eight of his free throws. He finished with just three assists against four turnovers though. Phillips had the roughest night of his Hawk career. Ranked ninth in the country in field goal percentage coming into the game, Phillips missed all six of his field goal attempts, just the second time in his SJU career (0-3 at Temple last year), and scored a season low of one point. He did, however, pull down a 10 rebounds, record three steals and dish three assists, all team highs. Phillips was not the only Hawk to shoot poorly. The team hit just 16-of-45 from the field for a season-low 35.6 percent. A far cry from their A-10 leading 50.4 percent coming into the game. On a positive note, Na'im Crenshaw, in his second game back from an academic suspension, scored 12 points, 10 of which came at the foul line. Former UMass player Ajmal Basit, in his first year at Delaware, had a stong game, tallying 19 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. He did, however, hurt his team's cause with dismal free throw shooting, hitting just 4-of-12. The Hawks, 9-3, have posted nine pre-January wins for the first time since the 1966-67 team ended December with a 9-2 mark. They now must get ready to open their Atlantic 10 season. The team hosts Duquesne (6-7), winners of three of its last four games, on January 3 (7:00 PM).
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