12:00 PM ET, February 14, 2004
Hagan Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Saint Joseph's stayed undefeated and coach Phil Martelli found something to complain about: The Hawks' effort."We demand it from them every single day. We didn't get it today," Martelli said. It was still enough for win No. 22. Jameer Nelson scored 20 points and Delonte West added 14 points and nine assists to help No. 3 Saint Joseph's to a 73-59 victory over Rhode Island on Saturday. Tyrone Barley had four 3-pointers and scored 14 points for the Hawks (22-0, 11-0 Atlantic 10) who extended their school-record winning streak and remain one of two unbeaten teams in Division I. No. 2 Stanford (20-0) played at California on Saturday night. The Hawks plodded along for most of the first half and finished the game outrebounded by 22. Martelli said the Hawks appeared mentally tired during practice on Friday and it seemed to carry over. The locker room was quieter than it has been most of the season after the players were chewed out by Martelli. His message? Don't get caught up in the expectations and hoopla. "Everything that's going on can go away with a snap of a finger," said Nelson, bothered by a slightly sprained right shoulder from Friday's practice."We don't want to let that happen." Nelson was this week's Sports Illustrated cover boy, and other national publications have come to Hawk Hill to find out how this little school became the season's biggest surprise. There was an announcement after the game that for the rest of the season autographs would be signed for charities only because the individual requests had become overwhelming. Maybe the Hawks were due for a slip up. "Today I think guys were looking at the rankings and that hurt our performance today," West said."Coach came and questioned our heart. There are going to be games like this." The Rams (14-11, 3-8) entered as the only team with a winning record left on Saint Joe's schedule and they appeared to be the biggest threat to the undefeated regular season. For a half, at least, the Rams were, trailing by only five points thanks to tight defense, a huge rebounding edge and uncharacteristically poor 3-point shooting by the Hawks. Saint Joe's turned the game around in the opening minutes of the second half, getting two 3-pointers from Pat Carroll -- he was 0-for-2 in the first half -- during a 13-2 run that made it 49-33. The Rams missed their first eight shots before scoring eight straight points, then getting two 3-pointers from Steve Mello that cut the deficit to nine with 7:17 left. While the Hawks didn't end with a blowout, as has been the norm for most of their wins, one result did stay the same -- the chants of"Undefeated!" from the sellout crowd. "We don't go into every game thinking we're going to win by 30," Nelson said."We just want to win the game." Brian Woodward had 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Rams, who have tailed off since their 13-2 start. Dawan Robinson, who was averaging a team-high 17.3 points, finished with only six points on 2-for-13 shooting. Rhode Island had a 48-26 rebounding edge, exposing again Saint Joe's lack of height in the frontcourt, but committed 21 turnovers to only nine for the Hawks. The Hawks play at Rhode Island on Feb. 28. "We played hard and rebounded, but you still have to execute," Rhode Island coach Jim Baron said. Rhode Island trailed by 10 points midway through the first half before responding with a 16-9 spurt that pulled the Rams to 29-26. Dustin Hellenga capped the run with a 3-pointer, pumping his fist and quieting what had been a raucous Saint Joe's crowd. Nelson, though, followed with a steal and was fouled on a fastbreak layup, then made the free throw for the three-point play. Two possessions later, West had a steal and was pushed hard under the basket on the break by Hellenga. Players exchanged some words and had to be separated by referees. West made both free throws, helping the Hawks to the 36-31 halftime lead. The Hawks shot 42 percent from 3-point range this season, but they missed eight of 12 attempts in the first half. Barley saved the percentage from being even worse by going 3-for-3.
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