Wildcats Struggle Early In Defeat To St. Joe's
Feb 2, 2004
By JIM O'CONNELL
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) - Saint Joseph's big three got the third-ranked Hawks through one of their toughest tests of the season.
The perimeter trio of Jameer Nelson, Delonte West and Pat Carroll combined for 60 points and Saint Joseph's beat Villanova 74-67 Monday night to extend its school-record winning streak to 19 games.
"We have the mentality right now that losing is not an option," West said. "When you set high goals for yourself, high standards, you have to answer it every day. We believe in ourselves but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves."
With the win over their local rival on the road, the Hawks (19-0) and No. 2 Stanford (18-0) remain the only unbeaten teams in Division I. Saint Joseph's has eight regular-season games left, all against Atlantic 10 opponents and only three against teams with winning records.
Is the perfect regular season, something last done by UNLV in 1990-91, on the Hawks' minds?
"We would love to be unbeaten. It would be great for Saint Joe's basketball and a big deal for college basketball but we have to stick to our game plan," West said. "Hopefully at the end of the season we'll have a zero in the loss column."
The Hawks looked like they would make this meeting with Villanova (12-8) just like last year's. Last season, Saint Joseph's took a 40-9 lead on the way to a 92-75 victory.
On Monday, the Hawks used some impressive defense to go on a 23-3 run and take a 27-8 lead with 8:22 left in the first half. The Wildcats, who opened the game 2-for-15 from the field, closed the half with a 7-0 run to get within 34-23.
Villanova's defense improved in the second half and the Wildcats made several runs at the Hawks, closing within five points twice before Andreas Bloch's 3-pointer with 6:46 left had them within 54-50.
Carroll, who entered the game 22-for-34 from 3-point range over his last
four games, hit 3s on consecutive possessions to make it 60-52 with 5:47 to go.
"Pat Carroll is our silent assassin," West said. "People think he's out of the game and concentrate on Jameer and me, and `Boom, boom.' That's the killer, the backbreaker."
Bloch hit another 3 with 5:30 left to make it 60-55, but Nelson and West combined for all but one of the Hawks' points the rest of the way. They went 7-for-8 from the free throw line while shooting into a blue-and-white pompon-waving Villanova student section.
"The mental makeup of this team astonishes me," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. "That's as raucous an atmosphere as I've ever been in but you could just see the calm in their faces."
Nelson had 23 points and West scored 21, the sixth time this season they both reached the 20-point mark in the same game. Carroll, who was 4-for-4 on 3s, had 16. West matched his career high with 11 rebounds and had six assists.
Freshman Mike Nardi had 16 points for the Wildcats, while Allan Ray had 13 and Bloch and Will Sheridan each had 10. Curtis Sumpter had nine points and six rebounds for Villanova but was just 1-for-14 from the field.
"It's frustrating," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We did some good things but we got beat by a better team."
"You have to do so many things well to be 19-0. They're not just two great players, they play as a team. It will be a joy to follow them the rest of the season."
The Hawks haven't been tested often this season and their trademark has been to take an early lead and stay in control. Nelson was asked if he was concerned when Villanova made the second-half runs to get close.
"Not really," he said. "We knew they would make a run. We've been in that situation before at Xavier." He paused for a moment as he thought. "Well, just Xavier."
Villanova went retro in trying snap the Hawks' streak, wearing throwback uniforms worn by its 1985 national championship team for the first time.