9:00 PM ET, March 2, 2004
Hagan Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PHILADELPHIA -- Un-de-feat-ed!Jameer Nelson scored 25 points and Chet Stachitas added a career-best 16, leading second-ranked Saint Joseph's to a 82-50 victory over St. Bonaventure in the Hawks' final home game Tuesday night. "They're far from finished. We got nine games left," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. Only the Atlantic 10 tournament stands in the way of a perfect season for Saint Joseph's (27-0, 16-0 Atlantic 10). The NCAA considers conference tournaments part of the regular season, though no one associated with the school seemed aware of the fact. The A-10 tourney starts March 10. That didn't stop the frenzied fans at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse from chanting: "Un-de-feat-ed!" They started with 3:27 left and kept going. Then they started yelling, "We want Stanford!" No team has entered the NCAA Tournament unbeaten since UNLV in 1991. Top-ranked Stanford (25-0) has two games remaining before it starts the Pac-10 tournament. "It's been a special season, but we have unfinished business here," said Nelson, who learned after the game that his No. 14 will be retired. Patrick Lottin and Ahmad Smith each had 10 points for St. Bonaventure (6-20, 2-13), which has lost 11 straight. Saint Joe's, which won by 51 at St. Bonaventure on Jan. 24, came in as 30-point favorites. The Hawks led by 20 at halftime, and were never threatened despite a subpar effort. Nelson had 16 points in the second half, finishing five behind Bernard Blunt for first place on the school's career scoring list. It appeared Martelli was going to leave Nelson in to break the scoring mark. Each time Nelson looked over at Martelli to get a breather, the coach smiled and shook his head, saying "No." Finally, Nelson left the court to a standing ovation with 8:08 remaining. Stachitas had 14 in the first half, including four 3-pointers. His final 3 gave Saint Joe's a 47-27 lead entering halftime. A fast-break layup by Nelson off a crisp pass from Delonte West put the Hawks ahead 59-29 early in the second half, and a pair of free throws by Stachitas capped a 21-0 run that made it 68-29. St. Bonaventure went 7:03 without a point as Saint Joe's easily put the game away. Martelli started pulling his starters with more than 12 minutes remaining, leaving only Nelson with four subs. West finished with 15 points and Nelson had eight rebounds and six assists. "It's a great feeling," West said. "To go undefeated speaks volumes. I'm just glad to be part of it." The 3,200-seat Fieldhouse, which included hundreds of standing-room-only fans, was jammed with crimson-wearing rowdies who refused to give up their tickets for any price. The excitement surrounding the game engulfed this tiny campus. Fans lined up 4½ hours before tipoff to get into the arena, and some began tailgating two hours earlier. Extra lights were put up in the cramped gymnasium, and nearly two dozen seats were lost because of makeshift construction to accommodate TV. The university considered moving the game to another site, but Nelson wanted to celebrate Senior Night at Hawk Hill. Nelson and three other seniors were honored in pregame ceremonies. After the game, Martelli announced Nelson's number will be retired on April 23. "One day his records will be broken, but no one will ever wear the No. 14 again," Martelli said. "He's the greatest player to ever wear a Saint Joe's uniform." A priest grabbed the microphone with more than three minutes to go and implored the crowd not to rush the court after the game so Nelson, Martelli and senior Tyrone Barley could address the fans. They listened and stayed in their seats. "These nets will come down," Martelli said, concluding his speech. "We're practicing for Dayton. We're practicing for the Meadowlands. We're practicing for the Alamodome. We will get it right."
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