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Underdog Hawks Relish their Role in Upset of B.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Joseph's University

by Patrick Wandalowski

 

Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli always stresses that the Atlantic Ten regular season is won on the road. Whoever can muster enough road wins will likely take the title. The same must be true for the non-conference schedule.

 

       Saint Joseph’s left Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, MA with a stunning 85-58 upset of the Boston College Eagles. The Hawks had entered the game as an 8 point underdog and as a team with many question marks. Saint Joseph’s returned just one starter from a core group of players that produced over 5000 career points and 46 wins in the last two seasons. But Saint Joseph’s loves the role of the underdog—something they were not in the last 2 years—and they also love that one returning starter, junior sensation Jameer Nelson.

 

       Nelson, a preseason 1st team All A-10 selection, set the stage right from the beginning by knocking down a three-pointer to start the game. He never let up from there on out, out-dueling Troy Bell in a battle of two of the nation’s best point guards. Troy Bell, a senior, was the national freshman of the year when he completed his rookie Big East season. The following year, Nelson captured the same honor as he led the Hawks to a school record 27 wins. Last year, the two teamed up and took home the gold medal for the U.S. Young Men’s National team.

 

       But this match-up was night and day. Bell, a 21.4 ppg scorer last year, suffered possibly the worst game of his career, winding up 2-of-14 with only 8 points. Nelson scorched the Eagles for 22 points (8-for-15, 4-of-8 from “3”) and 8 assists. Most importantly, he led his team to the win, the stat that all great point guards are measured by. No doubt about it, Troy Bell will be back and will have a tremendous season, but this notch goes on Nelson’s belt.

 

       The Hawks sprinted out to a 20-3 lead during the first 5 minutes due mainly to hot shooting beyond the arc. Sophomore Pat Carroll, 2nd team All-State in PA his senior year, buried 3 of those long bombs. But B.C. stormed back by controlling the offensive glass and drawing the young and inexperienced Hawks into early foul trouble.

 

       Alex Sazonov, the biggest question entering the year literally (7’1 center), exemplified why the Hawk faithful were worrisome. He committed 3 early fouls, including one on the second play of the game. With Sazonov on the bench, Craig Smith and Uka Agbai dominated the low post. The two were reminiscent of former Eagle Danya Abrams, who bullied the Hawks successfully during the last match up five years ago in the 2nd round of the NCAA tourney.

 

       The Hawks ended the half barely grasping their early lead. In the last 15 minutes of the half, they were outscored 26-14. Saint Joseph’s led 34-29.

 

       Sazonov picked up his 4th foul early on in the 2nd half, and the lead was down to four. And the Hawk faithful collectively began to wonder if B.C.’s momentum was going to carry through to a big second half.

 

       The answer was a defiant “NO!” by the Hawks.  Saint Joseph’s went into an offensive explosion.  The team shot 62% FG in the second half alone. John Bryant scored 8 of his 10 points in the second stanza. Delonte West, a key reserve last year, showed his potential by dropping in 9 points in the half.  Carroll drilled two more trifectas, going 5-for-5 from “3” for the game, and finishing with 19 points.  Defensive stopper Tyrone Barley contributed 7 second half points and continued his lockdown on Bell. Dwayne Jones (7 pts), the backup center, came through big filling in for the ineffective Sazonov (0 pts, 4 fouls). And Nelson was the straw that stirred the Hawk drink.

 

       Boston College was led in scoring by Agbai (16 pts) and a solid looking freshman, Craig Smith (15 pts). Bell and Ryan Sidney, one of the nation’s most heralded backcourts, ended up with just 21 points, combining for an abysmal 8-for-27 FG.

 

       Saint Joseph’s won the numbers game. They out-shot the Eagles 51% FG to 37% FG for the game. They had more threes, 13-1. And they had more heart. The team never trailed. They beat their big brother, the Big East. They gained a lot of confidence. Oh, and they showed once again, that “The Hawk Will Never Die!”

 

 

Email: Patrick Wandalowski