for this game

Calathes, Saint Joseph's halt Xavier's winning streak

Mar 7, 2008 - 7:19 AM By Vince DiGregorio PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Saint Joseph's closed out the final regular season at its Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse in style.

Pat Calathes scored 17 points and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds as the Hawks upset 11th-ranked Xavier, 71-66, in the Atlantic 10 Conference on Thursday, snapping the Musketeers' 11-game winning streak.

Tasheed Carr added 15 points for Saint Joseph's (18-10, 9-6 A-10), which finished with five scorers in double figures. Ahmad Nivins had 14 points, Rob Ferguson 13 and Garrett Williamson 10.

The Hawks had struggled as of late, losing three of their last four games and all but saw their chance at a NCAA Tournament at-large bid slip away. On a night when many of its former coaches and players were honored throughout the game, the current squad was able to keep its emotions in check.

"The credit goes to the players for being able to handle not just the closing of this building and the seniors' last game," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "I thought that they played with an emotional level that was the right level. You can't get all giddy.

"That's not what we do here. We don't jump around at halfcourt when we win games."

Derrick Brown led Xavier (25-5, 13-2) with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but he was the only player to score in double digits as the rest of the team shot a combined 40 percent (16-of-40) from the field.

"I thought St. Joe's had a very good defensive game plan and they executed it," Xavier coach Sean Miller said. "I thought their players played with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart. You could tell tonight's game meant a lot to them."

Xavier had already clinched the top seed and a first-round bye for the conference tournament, which begins next Wednesday in Atlantic City.

"(The win) tells us in our mind that we can beat the so-called best team in the conference," Carr said. "It gives us great confidence going toward the A-10 tournament."

With the 59-year-old Fieldhouse scheduled to undergo a renovation to increase its 3,200 seating capacity, the Hawks will be playing their home games next season at their home away from home, the historic Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania.

"We ran into a very good St. Joe's team in an electric atmosphere," Miller said. "We would have had to have played our very, very best to have a chance to win tonight. I don't think we did that, but I think St. Joe's had a lot to do with it."

With current ESPN radio analyst Dr. Jack Ramsay and Orlando Magic guard Jameer Nelson among the prominent St. Joe's alumni looking on, the Hawks led by as many as 15 points in the second half before holding on for the victory.

"They won a game that they deserved to win," Miller added. "They were ready and it would have taken a very good team to come in here and beat them tonight."

The win at the Fieldhouse was the first against a high-ranking opponent since St. Joe's defeated 10th-ranked Massachusetts on February 15, 1994.

After Drew Lavender's 3-pointer gave Xavier a 17-16 lead, Calathes sank two free throws to give Saint Joseph's the lead for good and start an 11-2 run that he later capped with a layup after a no-look pass by Nivins. It gave the Hawks their biggest lead of the half, 27-19, with 4:12 remaining.

The teams then traded baskets as Saint Joseph's took a 33-26 lead at intermission. It committed just three first-half turnovers, while Xavier connected on only 38.5 percent (10-of-26) of its shots.

Nivins keyed an early second-half run with seven points during a 13-5 spurt that he capped with a baseline slam dunk that gave the Hawks their biggest advantage of the game at 46-31 with 14:43 left.

"We got it together as a team," Nivins said. "It was just a matter of turning it on."

Xavier refused to go away, however, and stayed within striking distance. Trailing 48-33, the Musketeers scored six straight points to cut their deficit to nine points.

St. Joe's eventually stretched the lead back to double digits and appeared to have the contest in control after a 3-pointer by Ferguson made it 65-53 with 2:46 left.

But the Musketeers stayed in it with a 13-4 burst, pulling within 69-66 with 7.1 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Lavender. Calathes had the only four points on 4-of-6 free-throw shooting.

"What a wonderfully coached team (Xavier) is," Martelli said. "To come into this setting and to make us fight the way we had to fight, I have nothing but admiration for everything they do at Xavier."

The Hawks prevailed as Carr sealed the win with two free throws with 6.4 seconds left. The victory avenged an earlier 76-72 loss on February 10 at Xavier.

"Out there, we thought we had the game (won) and it slipped by," Carr said. "Our attitude this time was that we're not going to let it slip by."

The Musketeers close out the regular season at home on Saturday against Richmond.

"Coming into the game - think about it - we won 17 of 18 (games), 11 in a row," Miller said. "It's a matter of trying to win on Saturday and that'll be our final home game. Hopefully, we'll be 26-5 going to the tournament. I'll take that."

St. Joe's is still alive for a first-round bye in the league tournament. It finishes at Dayton on Saturday.