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NELSON AND HAWKS DEFEAT #10 GONZAGA, 73-66
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  09/01/2004
NEW YORK, NY (11/14/03) - Jameer Nelson lived up to his preseason accolades and had 20 points and 10 assists to lead 17th-ranked Saint Joseph's to an exciting 73-66 win over #10 Gonzaga in front of a partisan Hawk crowd in the final game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden. Nelson, a preseason first team All-America selection, put on a show for the 4,000-plus Hawk fans and a national television audience in the season opener for both teams. The senior point guard also grabbed eight rebounds to just miss a triple-double, while being named the game's Most Valuable Player. The victory was also the 150th in the coaching career of Hawk mentor Phil Martelli, now in his ninth season with Saint Joseph's. Trailing 38-34 at halftime, Saint Joseph's came out strong in the second half and outscored the Zags, 16-4, in the first six minutes. SJU held a 66-55 lead with 8:03 to go, but Gonzaga scored six straight to cut the deficit to 66-61. Hawks' junior Pat Carroll then banked in a three-pointer from the baseline to open the lead to 69-61 with 3:01 to play. After GU's Tony Skinner hit two free throws, Hawks' defensive specialist Tyrone Barley stole the ball from Blake Stepp to help seal the win. Delonte West added 16 points for SJU on 4-for-7 three-point shooting as he earned the game's award for the top shooter from beyond the arc. Sophomore Dwayne Jones had a career-best six blocked shots, while fellow frontcourt player John Bryant blocked two. Saint Joseph's fans dominated the arena as over 4,000 Hawk fans made up the announced crowd of 10,328, and providing a tremendous atmosphere to one of the first games of the 2003-04 college basketball season. "To play that team (Gonzaga) and that coaching staff is really an honor. If we could do that 30 times - I'm not sure I could stand the excitement - but they are really, really and honorable group. And it's a pleasure to play them," said Martelli. "The other significant thing is that you saw the passion that our people have for St. Joe's basketball. We had more people here than we will at any home game all year. They made a difference." "When he came back to St. Joe's, I knew that he would do his family proud, he would do the basketball program at Saint Joseph's proud, the University and college basketball proud. And he did. He's the best in America because he leads and he believes that the reason you play basketball is for your team to win," said Martelli of Nelson. The Hawks get a breather and resume the season on Tuesday, November 25 when they travel to Boston University.