PHILADELPHIA (1/24/01) ? St, Joseph's University head coach Phil Martelli would be the first to admit that his team was not clicking on all cylinders in their game against the visiting Rhode Island University Rams at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse. Thankfully, it does not take many cylinders to put away URI these days, as SJU road 21 points from junior Marvin O'Connor and career highs of 18 rebounds and six assists from junior Bill Phillips (13 points) to coast to an easy 82-67 win. With the victory, SJU improved to 15-4 on the year, and remained in first place in the Atlantic 10 with a 6-1 record. It also marked the second fastest that a Hawk team recorded their 15th win. The 1964-65 squad, which finished the season at #3 nationally, posted its 15th win on January 23. "It is very difficult to come back and play a team a second time after beating them the first time as handily (92-67, Jan. 6)," stated Martelli. "I think it showed on our offensive end of the floor. We were not quite as crisp. We were not making the second pass as quickly, getting the ball rotated." For not being crisp, the Hawks passing game is still one of the best in the country. SJU again displayed its ability for finding the open man, even though on this night the shot did not always fall as it has in the previous 18 games. The Hawks topped the 20 assist plateau for the sixth time on the year, dishing 22 assists on 27 baskets with Jameer Nelson (7 assists) and Phillips leading the way. Shooting, SJU's strong point coming in as evidenced by its .495 field goal percentage (15th nationally), did not come easy. The Hawks managed to hit just 45 percent, a good game for most teams, but its fourth worst on the 2000-01 campaign. Phillips, one of the best in the country from the field, connected on only two-of-eight, his second worst game this season. The 6-10 forward proved how valuable he is to the Hawks as he overcame just his fifth sub .500 shooting game to post career highs in rebounds and assists while hitting 9-of-10 from the charity stripe. "He is really invaluable to this team," explained Martelli on Phillips role. "He does all of these other things that allow Jameer to be the point guard, Marv to score, Na'im to come into the game. And then when you look out there, Billy is always there. He has a stabilizing influence on this team." "The ball seemed like it was bouncing my way tonight," stated Phillips. "I felt a little more energy, a little more pep in my step." SJU jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first two minutes and it looked like a runaway. The Rams, 4-15, 0-6, would score eight of the next 12 points to close to within four, 12-8, by the 12 minute mark, and that would be a pattern throughout the first half. SJU would extend the margin only to se URI reel it in. It looked as if the Hawks were about to pull away at the end of the half, running off eight straight points to push the lead to 32-16, with 10 seconds to play. But a long range three by Tiger Womack, who would hit 3-of-4 from deep for 13 points, at the buzzer, made it 32-19 at intermission. In the second half it was Na'im Crenshaw's show. Whenever the Rams closed the margin, the 6-5 senior swingman took over. Crenshaw, who tallied 15 of his 17 points in the second half, ran off eight unanswered points to extend SJU's lead to 56-35 at the 12 minute mark. When URI cut it to 12, 63-51 with 7:13 to play, he dished an assist on an O'Connor "three", made a free throw and slammed down an impressive left-handed jam to push the margin to 71-53 with 4:30 on the clock. And that was all she wrote. "Our maturity level is huge," stated O'Connor on the team's attitude. "When you are talking about keeping focus, we have guys who have been here three or four years and we know what we need to do." Led by Phillips, and Damian Reid (10 pts, 10 rebs), SJU out-rebounded URI, 48-26. It was Phillips 6th double-double on the year, and Reid's fourth. Zach Marbury led the Rams with 24 points. SJU will now play host to Penn in their own building on Saturday, January 27 (8:00 PM/Comcast SportsNet). At halftime, SJU's all-time leading scorer Bernard Blunt and Hawk women's star Audrey Codner will be officially inducted into the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame. They will be joined by Villanova women's standout Nikki Benedix and Penn coaching legend Chuck Daly.
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