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HAWKS DROP WILD GAME TO GEORGIA STATE
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  09/01/2004
CHARLOTTE, NC (12/21/01) ? Marvin O'Connor has done it countless times in his Saint Joseph's career - lift his Hawks on his mighty back and carry them when they need it the most. In the team's loss to legendary coach Lefty Driesell's Georgia State team, the Hawks needed more than O'Connor could offer. The Hawks' All-American scored 33 points, hitting 7-of-13 from behind the three-point line, but it was his final shot, that came up just short of the mark - like his team - in a 95-90 defeat in the first round of the Tournament of Champions. SJU (#15 AP/#18 ESPN/USA Today) will face North Carolina, 65-60 loser to the College of Charleston in the other first round game. "It did not feel like the previous ones," said O'Connor on his final shot. "There were two or three guys on me from the tip and I did not get as clean a look as I had previously." O'Connor, who had hit three treys from that same spot (the top of the key) in the second half, took a tip from Bill Phillips off a Jameer Nelson intentionally missed free throw with 6.7 second to play and launched what would have been a tying jumper. It rimmed out and 6-11 sophomore center Nate Williams, who dominated the Hawks inside all night to a tune of 27 points and 13 rebounds, capped the Panthers' first-ever win over a ranked opponent with two free throws. The game was one of the strangest in the 93-year history of Saint Joseph's men's basketball. SJU, which entered the game with an A-10 best 48.4 field goal percentage, missed its first 11 shots from the field. The cold start may have been attributed to the Hawks long layoff (11 days due to exams) as it was the team's first game since December 10. The Panthers, on the other hand, could not have been hotter, hitting 11 of their first 14 attempts, 5-of-6 from three-point range, to take a 29-7 lead at the 11:40 mark of the first half. The margin grew to 25 points, 34-9, just three minutes later, before the Hawks started to show signs of life. "They were hitting shots from all over the place and we could not buy a basket at that time," stated the Hawks' main marksman, O'Connor. "That is unheard of; we were just unfortunate to be in that type of situation." After trading baskets for the next two minutes, the Hawks, led by O'Connor (12 points), went on a 25-4 run to close out the half. The Panther lead was now just 44-41, and momentum was clearly in SJU's favor. The game, however, would end up being reminiscent of last year's A-10 semifinal with UMass, when the Hawks stormed back from a large first half deficit, fought a war in the second half, only to fall at the end. SJU took a short-lived 60-57 lead with 13:20 to play, but Georgia State built it back to double figures six minutes later, 78-66. The Hawks cut it back to one, 83-82, on the strength of a 16-5 run, but the Panthers held on. "They did not drop their heads when we came back from 25, they just kept playing the game they were playing in the first half," stated SJU's Nai'im Crenshaw, who scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half. "We put a lot of effort in coming back, but we just ran dry during the latter minutes of the game," added O'Connor, who played the entire second half with a bruised left toe and was visibly hobbled. "We gave a great effort but you are never happy with a great effort if you do not get the win." As hot as O'Connor was for the Hawks, Thomas Terrell was even hotter for the Panthers. The 6-7 senior forward tallied 36 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field (6-10 from behind the arc) and missed just one free throw on 11 attempts. He also added eight boards to help the Panthers to a 43-38 advantage in that area. "He was unconscious," said O'Connor on Terrell. "Sometimes you have to tip your hat, they beat us." O'Connor set three Tournament of Champion records, most three-pointers made (7), attempted (13) and best three-point percentage (.538) for a game. His 33 points tied for second best in tourney history while Terrell set the record with his 36 point outburst. Lost in the game was a season-high 10 points by freshman Delonte West, incredible defensive hustle by sophomore Tyrone Barley, a season-high 12 rebounds by Damian Reid and Nelson's fifth double figure assist game (10) of his career. Now the Hawks must regroup in a hurry and face a North Carolina team that is in dire need of a win. The Tar Heels are floundering at the moment, but are still a dangerous team, especially in this state and in this tournament, where they have a 20-3 record over the past 13 years. "All that stuff is gone now (rankings)", stated head coach Phil Martelli following the game. "Tomorrow is going to be a challenge. We did not want to be in this situation, but now we have to go out and earn (our ranking) again."