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Saint Joseph’s Streaks to 4-0 Start
















St. Joseph's University

by Patrick Wandalowski

December 8th


Saint Joseph's extended its winning streak to 5 games by defeating Drexel, 50-37.  The Hawks displayed a tremendous attacking defense while scoring just enough points to hold off a late rally by the Dragons, in the first game of the Philadelphia City 6 tripleheader at the Palestra.

       The Hawks forced 27 Drexel turnovers, limited the Dragons to 15 first half points, and held their opponent's field goal percentage to under 25% for the game.  The Saint Joseph's triumvirate of Nelson, West, and Carroll combined to score 31 of the team's 50 points. 

       Saint Joseph's opened the game on fire.  A Jameer Nelson three-pointer, a Pat Carroll basket, a Dave Mallon three-pointer followed by another Carroll jumper fueled the Hawks to an early 10-2 lead. 

       Jameer Nelson was dominating the game.  The Dragons had no answer for Nelson's quickness and strength.  Nelson drew some early fouls with dribble penetration.  But with the lead at 14-4, maybe Nelson got a little too greedy.  Another aggressive drive resulted in a charging violation and saddled Nelson with his 2nd foul.  Martelli made his All-Everything point guard take a seat on the bench, with almost 12 minutes remaining in the opening half.

       Enter true freshman Dwayne Lee.  How it must have felt to have been Dwayne Lee at that moment!  A rookie point guard had to take on a huge leadership role in the Palestra, a basketball mecca.  The Palestra embodies Philly basketball tradition.  It has hosted more than 50 NCAA tourney games, numerous NIT games, and even NBA games during the early days of the league.  It has served as the primary site for Big 5 clashes involving Temple, Villanova, LaSalle, Penn, and Saint Joseph's.  Everyone who is Anyone in Philly basketball history has played there people like Wilt Chamberlain, Tom Gola, Lionel Simmons, Mark Macon, and Kerry Kittles.   

       But Dwayne Lee comes with a fine pedigree.  His high school team was Saint Anthony's Prep, one of the premier high schools in the nation coached by Bob Hurley.  As a junior and senior, Lee led his squad to consecutive NJ State Tournament of Champions titles.  USA Today ranked St. Anthony's Prep #10 and #2 nationally those years, respectively.

       So Mr. Lee was prepared.  Even with Jameer Nelson sitting out nearly 12 minutes of the half, Lee held down the fort quite well.  Drexel barely outscored the Hawks 11-10 over that time span.  Lee had plenty of help.  Delonte West scored 10 of his 12 points in the half.

       The Hawks broke the top off the Defensive Intensity Meter.  The past couple of years, Martelli would have to substitute defensive players for offensive players in close games.  New personnel would be entering the game each and every possession.  Not this year.  Every player on Saint Joseph's plays defense.  They all WANT to play defense. They take pride in their defense.  The Hawks employ an impressive full-court trapping press, extend their perimeter defense to beyond the three-point circle, and are very successful in doubling a low post threat and rotating to the open man to prevent the easy basket.  It was the defense that kept the Hawks out in front.

       Robert Battle of Drexel kept the Dragons in the game during the 1st half.  He scored 7 points and drew several fouls.  Whenever he caught the ball, good things happened.  He should have touched the ball even more.  His key baskets and too many offensive mishaps (fouls and turnovers) by the Hawks kept this game from being over early.

       Jameer Nelson re-entered the game with only 30 seconds left in the half.  The difference was clear.  He drove the lane, drew several defenders to him, and kicked the ball out to a wide open Tyrone Barley, who drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer. Hawks 27, Dragons 15.

       Drexel came out fast to start the second half.  Another inside basket by Battle followed by a put-back lay-up by Whitworth cut the lead.  But a Sazonov dunk and a Carroll bucket pushed the lead back up to 12 points, 33-21.  Then Jameer Nelson performed some highlight material.  After he launched a three-pointer which appeared to be short, he leaped in the air for the rebound, caught it, and layed it in before he hit the ground.  Then on defense, Nelson corralled an errant pass which led to a 2-on-1 fast break and alley-oop finish by John Bryant.  The Hawks led 38-21 with about 12 minutes to play.

       But the Palestra magic kicked in.  Games are never over at the Palestra, especially between Philly rivals.  Before the Saint Joseph's contingent knew it, Drexel went on a 13-1 run, trimming the lead to 39-34 with 6:00 remaining.  Drexel was hitting everything.  Saint Joseph's couldn't hit the side of a barn.  You could see the nerves affecting the players.

       So who was going to take over the game? Who else? Jameer Nelson.  Nelson stopped the bleeding by hitting the front end of the 1-and-1.  He also finished a tough lay-up on a 2-on-1 break.  That was the ballgame.  The Dragons never got any closer.

       The ending of the game wasn't too enjoyable.  The refs must have had a whistle quota.  Every possession there was a call.  Neither team could establish an offensive flow.  When all was said and done, Saint Joseph's had held its 3rd straight opponent under 50 points. 

       Nelson had 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists.  West had 12 points, 9 rebounds, and a game-high 5 assists.  Barley had 7 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists.  The Hawks survived 33% shooting from the field and 18 turnovers.           

       Robert Battle (It would be nice if the Hawks could have him) led Drexel with 12 points and 9 rebounds.  Eric Schmeider also had 8 points to go with 4 rebounds and 4 assists.

       Saint Joseph's plays Delaware on Monday, December 9th.  The game is at 7pm at the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse.         


Email: Patrick Wandalowski