PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- There must be some magic -- no, not Magic -- whenever Saint Joseph's has Jameer Nelson on the bench.
Four years after Nelson nearly led the Hawks to an almost-perfect regular season, he was back for one last incredible game in that old cramped and creaky gym the Hawks called home.
Pat Calathes scored 17 points and Saint Joseph's closed Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse with one more upset win, beating Xavier (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) 71-66 on Thursday night.
"It was an opportunity for them to create their own memories at the Fieldhouse," said coach Phil Martelli.
With former Hawks stars, including Jack Ramsay and Nelson courtside, Saint Joseph's (18-10, 9-6 Atlantic 10) added to the history of its venerable arena. Playing the 401st and final regular-season game in their on-campus arena until the 2009-10 season, the Hawks marked the occasion by knocking off No. 8 Xavier, the highest-ranked opponent to lose at the Fieldhouse.
Martelli did not participate in a pregame ceremony, though he could hear all the noise in his nearby office. He wondered how the Hawks, who have been inconsistent with their effort all season, would maintain the energy level in the gym. Turns out, he had nothing to worry about.
"He told us if our goal was to play in the postseason, we're going to have to be ready for situations like this," said Ahmad Nivins, who scored 14 points.
Derrick Brown led the Musketeers (25-5, 13-2) with 18 points. They snapped an 11-game winning streak.
Xavier's only two A-10 losses came in Philadelphia, the other a 78-59 loss on Jan. 16 at Temple.
"We have to figure out what to do here," said coach Sean Miller, with a chuckle. "It's not helping our Philadelphia recruiting."
The Hawks will play next season at the Palestra while the antiquated Fieldhouse undergoes sorely needed renovations, including new locker rooms and 1,000 more seats.
The Hawks could return for a home game in the NIT, but whatever happens in the postseason will merely be a footnote to one of the biggest wins in the steamy and cozy 3,200-seat gym.
Perhaps having Nelson, now with the Orlando Magic, sitting at the end of the bench as an honorary captain brought some good luck to the Hawks. After all, he was a senior and Wooden Award winner when the Hawks started 27-0 in the 2003-04 season, and a banner in the pregame ceremony read, "Jameer Brings Magic to the Fieldhouse."
Whatever the inspiration, the Hawks played like a team determined to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Nelson helped them all the way to regional final four years ago.
"The credit all goes to the players for being able to handle the atmosphere," Martelli said. "I thought they played at an emotional level that was the right level."
The Hawks broke this one open early in the second half and grabbed a 15-point lead. The raucous crowd was chanting and stomping all game, feeling extra juiced after a pregame ceremony that brought back so many former Saint Joseph's greats.
Rob Ferguson, who scored 13 points, sank a 3-pointer early in the second half for a 10-point lead, and Nivins converted a tough inside basket and free throw for a three-point play in front of the student section.
Tasheed Carr fell on his back after he sank a 3 from the top of the arc and Nivins' baseline dunk made it 46-31, with all those big baskets becoming important down the stretch. Carr went 3-for-4 on 3s and had 15 points.
Xavier made a spirited run in the final minutes that nearly spoiled all the festivities. Josh Duncan sank a 3 with 15.5 seconds left that cut the deficit to 67-63. Drew Lavender, severely limited the last five games because of a sprained left ankle, hit another 3 with 7.1 to go that made it 69-66. Only the run came too late for Xavier.
"This loss is understandable. We lost to a very good team," Miller said.
The Hawks would seal the win at the line, with the students bellowing their famed chant, "The Hawk Will Never Die!" They rushed the court and danced with the Hawks one final time.
Saint Jospeh's athletic director Don DiJulia chomped on a victory cigar about an hour after the game.
Saint Joseph's created a list of its 25 most memorable Fieldhouse games -- dating back to the first one on Nov. 26, 1949 -- but it surely needs some updating now. One game that could get bumped? The previous biggest upset, an 81-80 win over No. 10 Massachusetts on Feb. 15, 1994.
The Hawks went on an 11-2 run and Calathes hit a running jumper in the final minute of the first half to give them a 33-26 halftime lead.