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SWARMING HAWKS RIP MASSACHUSETTS, 92-67, FOR 16TH STRAIGHT
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  09/01/2004
PHILADELPHIA (1/21/04) - Locked in. Unconscious. In the zone. Call it what you will, but four days removed from a gut-check win at Xavier, the No. 3 Hawks emphatically tossed aside any notion of a letdown tonight at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse. Saint Joseph's 92-67 demolition of Massachusetts wasn't, believe it or not, as close as it sounds. Playing focused and precise basketball, SJU (16-0, 6-0) shot 32-of-64 from the floor and hit 14 of 34 from behind the arc. The Hawks attacked every Minuteman defensive effort with a searing intensity, and were in complete command from the opening tip. On the defensive end, SJU strangled UMass (5-11, 0-5) with its typically overwhelming perimeter defense, holding the Minutemen to 39.7% shooting from the field and just 4-of-13 from three-point land. Had Hawks coach Phil Martelli not emptied his bench with several minutes left in the game, the statistics -- and the final score -- would have been even more lopsided. The biggest news of the night might be that junior guard Delonte West actually missed a shot. Of course, it came after he had hit seven straight field goal attempts, and 19 straight over the last two games. West's consecutive free-throw streak also ended, at a school-record 30. He finished with 19 points, five rebounds and six assists in just 22 minutes, leading Martelli to plead West's case for All-America status. Pat Carroll led all scorers with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting. After a slow start to the season, he seems to have recovered his long-range touch, hitting a couple of clutch threes against Xavier and scorching UMass with 6-of-7 from the arc tonight. Jameer Nelson chipped in with 13 points and seven assists. And despite plenty of dazzling ball movement, the Hawks turned the ball over just eight times, compared to 15 for UMass. Saint Joseph's blasted out of the gate with five consecutive treys, and never looked back. The Minutemen played gamely, but were completely outmatched; at one point in the second half, the Hawks led by 40. Martelli had to reach for reasons not to smile in his postgame discussion. "The effort at the beginning of the game was obviously significant," he said. "But still -- four missed layups in the first half. So there's room, I consider, for improvement." Massachusetts got double-doubles out of Jeff Viggiano (12 pts, 10 rebs) and Rashaun Freeman (17 pts, 12 rebs), but it was nowhere near enough. Spurred by a raucous, sellout Fieldhouse crowd and playing in their first game since students returned from winter break, the Hawks managed to stay within themselves and avoid getting caught up in the hype. "This team is pretty levelheaded," Martelli acknowledged. "They're calm about things. They don't let a lot of things get to them. You have to be alert to the play at hand and not get caught up. We take it and move on." Indeed, while the Hawks' lofty perch in the polls has attracted blinding media attention, Martelli has been impressed by his squad's focus. While they refuse to pay much attention to their ranking, he said, he encourages them to be "selfish" when it comes to stockpiling W's. "The 16 wins is significant," Martelli noted. "When you think of the people who have played here and coached here, that is a significant accomplishment." The Hawks will shoot for 17 straight Saturday at St. Bonaventure. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. The game can be hard on WPEN/950-AM and over the Internet at http://www.sjuhawks.com. Photo courtesy of Greg Carroccio, Sideline Photos, LLC.