Saint Joseph's Claims Rubber Match
Nov 15, 2003
By JIM O'CONNELL
NEW YORK (AP) - Jameer Nelson lived up to the billing.
The second-leading vote-getter on the AP's preseason All-America team had 20 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists and a ton of oohs and aahs in leading No. 17 Saint Joseph's to a 73-66 victory over No. 10 Gonzaga in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Friday night.
The senior guard struggled with his shot in the first half but more than made up for it in the second as he seemed to come up with every big play the Hawks needed in the teams' season opener.
His best sequence came when he drew a charge at midcourt, then took the inbounds pass and made a drive through traffic that left the crowd at Madison Square Garden standing and cheering.
More than 4,000 Saint Joseph's fans bought tickets and they turned the building in New York into Philadelphia's Hawk Hill for a night. The university with the enrollment of 3,800 was the big school for the night.
This was the third straight year these schools met. Gonzaga won on a Dan Dickau trey at the buzzer at Saint Joe's in 2002, and Nelson's basket in overtime gave the Hawks the win last year in snapping Gonzaga's 29-game home winning streak. Although this one wasn't as close as the last two that were decided by a total of four points with the Saint Joseph's win going overtime, it did get nervous for the Hawks.
They went five minutes without scoring and the Bulldogs closed an 11-point deficit to 66-61. But Pat Carroll banked in a 3-pointer from just in front of the Saint Joseph's bench with 3:02 to play and the outcome was never really in doubt.
"I give all the credit to Saint Joe's," Gonzaga fifth-year head coach Mark Few said. "They cranked up the 'D' and then turned it up another notch in the second half. We didn't handle it as well as we should have or as well are we will. They did a great job of pressuring us, then hit some shots down the stretch."
Delonte West added 16 points for the Hawks, while Carroll and Tyrone Barley each had 12.
Cory Violette had 13 points and 15 rebounds for Gonzaga for his 21st career double-double. Senior guard Blake Stepp, the West Coast Conference player of the year last season, struggled through a 2-for-12 shooting night and had eight points.
"They played good defense," Stepp said of his off night. "They chased me down. I took a few quick shots."
Down 69-63 with less than a minute to go, the Bulldogs turned the ball over on consecutive possesions, Stepp losing it once and Violette the second time.
"We didn't make good decisions. We made a couple of dumb errors and you can't do that in the final minute down the stretch," Stepp said.
All three Gonzaga freshmen got plenty of playing time. True freshman Adam Morrison from Spokane's Mead High started and played 31 minutes. He went 5-for-10 from the field for 10 points and also grabbed 5 rebounds. Sean Mallon, a redshirt freshamn from Spokane's Ferris High, caqme off the bench for 21 minutes and had 8 points, including a trey from the top of the key on his first collegiate shot that gave the Bulldogs a 25-23 lead. Freshman guard Derek Raivio played 11 minutes and had 4 points on a 4-for-4 night from the free throw line and also dished out a pair of assists.
After building a 38-30 lead with 47 seconds left in the opening half on a 9-1 run that featured six free throws, the Bulldogs saw the Hawks go on a 19-2 run that carried over to the 15:52 mark of the second half. That gave Saint Joe's a 49-40 lead that the Bulldogs never seemed to fully recover from. Every time the Bulldogs seemed ready to mount a comeback, the Hawks responded.
"Jameer is a handful that I don't think anybody in the country can handle 1-on-1. But the thing that bothered me most was we didn't do a good job on their 2-point shots," Few said.
The tone on defense was set early, according to Few, as the Hawks blocked several shots early, particularly Dwayne Jones who finished with six of the Hawks eight blocks in the contest.
Gonzaga outrebounded the Hawks 47-32, but Saint Joseph's doubled the Bulldogs' output from 3-point range with 12. Gonzaga was 6-for-15 from beyond the arc, the Hawks 12-for-25.
Gonzaga will return to action next Friday when they host the University of Idaho in The Kennel, the first of three straight home games for the Bulldogs that includes a Nov. 24 date with the University of Denver in The Kennel and a Nov. 29 visit from the University of Georgia in the Spokane Arena.
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