(6) Saint Joseph's 81

(15-0, 5-0 A 10)

Xavier 73

(9-6, 1-2 A 10)

    2:00 PM ET, January 17, 2004

    Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

    1 2 T
    #6JOES 35 4681
    XAV 41 3273

    Guard makes everything he takes

    CINCINNATI (AP) -- Delonte West was as perfect as his team.

    The left-handed guard made every one of his shots -- 12 from the field, six from the line -- for a career-high 33 points Saturday, and No. 6 St. Joseph's extended the best start in school history with an 81-73 victory over Xavier.

    Jameer Nelson added 28 points in a two-guard attack that rallied the Hawks (15-0, 5-0 Atlantic 10) from their first nine-point deficit of the season and left the Musketeers gasping for air and grasping for adjectives.

    "He was unbelievable," said guard Lionel Chalmers, who led Xavier with 23 points. "If you take 12 layups, you might miss one. He had it going. Twelve-for-12 -- I don't think he'll do that again."

    He did it when the unbeaten Hawks needed it most.

    Xavier (9-6, 1-2) stunned the conference's stingiest defense by hitting 3-pointers and pulling ahead 41-35, the Hawks' biggest halftime deficit of the season.

    West and Nelson drew groans and "aahs" of amazement from the capacity crowd as they helped the Hawks catch up and pull away with their uncanny accuracy.

    West set school and conference records by taking 12 shots without a miss. Nelson, a national player of the year contender, went 11-of-18 from the field as the tandem accounted for all but 20 of the Hawks' points.

    "You saw the best player in America and you saw the best backcourt in America," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "They are what they are."

    The Musketeers repeatedly switched up their man-to-man defense but never found a way to stop the only two players who could hurt them.

    The Hawks hadn't won on Xavier's court since Feb. 17, 1973, losing on their last six trips. They became only the fourth visiting team to win at the Cintas Center in its four seasons, joining Massachusetts, Cincinnati and Richmond.

    The last time St. Joseph's came to town, West was 3-of-5 for six points as the Musketeers won 84-77.

    "Last night in the hotel, I remembered how I had a big turnover at the end of that game," West said. "I had some bad memories as a freshman coming here.

    "I had it going today and my teammates did a good job of finding me."

    It wasn't difficult. Xavier knew that either West or Nelson was going to take the shot, but still couldn't stop them.

    "I've never seen a show like those two put on, from the standpoint of where and when they hit them," Xavier coach Thad Matta said. "One time when the shot clock was winding down, West penetrated and we grabbed his arm and he still made it. I don't know what else you can do.

    "They were responsible for everything that happened today. That's what great players do."

    There were seven ties and seven lead changes. Xavier led by as many as nine in the first half, when it went 6-of-7 on 3-point attempts.

    West made four free throws in a 10-point spurt that helped St. Joseph's pull away in the closing minutes, keeping its record as perfect as West's shooting line.

    "I'd almost like to keep on playing just to see when he was going to miss," Matta said.

    St. Joseph's is off to the second-best start in Atlantic 10 history, topped only by Massachusetts' 26-0 run in 1995-96. The longest overall winning streak in school history is 16 games, in 1964-65.

    Romain Sato scored 14 points and provided Xavier's best moment of the game -- a turnaround jumper from the baseline that gave the Musketeers a 41-35 halftime lead.

    Xavier players sprinted off the floor and jubilantly slapped hands with students as they headed for the locker room. It was only the second time all season that St. Joseph's trailed at the break.

    Nelson's crimson jersey was soaked through as he rallied the Hawks early in the second half. He drove and passed to Dwayne Jones for an uncontested dunk, then had a steal and layup that tied it at 49.

    West hushed the crowd by driving the baseline for a left-handed layup, had a putback off one of Nelson's rare misses, and made a three-point play that put the Hawks ahead 65-60 with 7:40 left. At that point, Nelson and West each had 27 points and were a combined 22-of-27 from the field.

    Sato's fastbreak layup put Xavier ahead one last time, 71-70 with 3:08 left, but Pat Carroll's 3-pointer started the clinching 10-point run.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    2003-04 Season

    » Jan 17, 2004 JOES 81, @XAV 73Recap
    Mar 11, 2004 XAV 87, @JOES 67Recap