By the end, the St. Joseph’s Hawks had a five and a spare, and that’s it as far as regular scholarship players, as another starter hit the bench with injury. Didn’t matter Friday night, didn’t matter at all. The Hawks, making shots from the start inside Hagan Arena, torched St. Louis, 91-61.
Before and after, there was a lot of emotion in the building. There was a pregame tribute to coach Phil Martelli’s father, who died on Wednesday. As it ended and Hawks students chanted Martelli’s name and Hawks players began hugging their coach, St. Louis players all walked over and lined up to give the opposing coach a hug.
When it was over, St. Joe’s players gave their coach the game ball, and he delivered it to his sister in the stands. Martelli had started his day by going into his basement and writing a eulogy for his father.
"There were some guiding hands on some of those shots that went in,'' Martelli said after St. Joe’s improved to 11-13 overall, 4-7 in the Atlantic 10.
There was a reason ESPN2 had this game. In the preseason, St. Louis had been picked to win the A-10 while St. Joe’s had been chosen to finish second. Coming in, the Billikens were tied for fifth at 6-4, the Hawks tied for 11th at 3-7. Make that 6-5 for St. Louis, 15-9 overall.
As St. Joe’s jumped to a 24-11 lead, Charlie Brown, who finished with 28 points, scored about every way possible.
He started with a banked three but quickly followed with a 19-footer he hit while getting fouled, completing the three-point play. He added a tip-in, a runner in the lane, and, at the highest degree of difficulty, a well-contested baseline 13-footer, which got him to a dozen points before St. Louis did.
Brown kept going, getting to 9-for-9 from the field for 21 points by halftime, adding a tough baseline drive and a fadeaway-to-the-point-of-falling bank in the lane.
At the break, the Hawks were up 45-34, also getting a boost from Taylor Funk. He was sick with the flu, questionable to play, but, realizing the bind his team was in, was out there. Funk hit a corner three for his first shot, adding a deep NBA three, playing 30 minutes.
After halftime, Brown finally missed, but freshman Jared Bynum (20 points) led the way, even as another starter, Markell Lodge, didn’t get out there after halftime until St. Louis called a timeout. Lodge was out with a right thumb sprain, his arm wrapped. The Hawks were down to six recruited scholarship players. Didn’t matter.