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
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
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
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
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