TOWSON, Md. - St. Joseph's got ready for Thursday night's annual Big Five showdown with Villanova by beating Towson, 85-64, tonight at the Towson Center Arena.

The nonconference game was the first between the two schools, and the win enabled St. Joseph's to get back to .500 at 4-4 in what has been a roller-coaster ride since last month's opening tip.

It took almost the entire first half tonight until coach Phil Martelli's group got a firm handle on the action against Towson (4-5).

While leading scorer Ahmad Nivins was dominating the inside for St. Joseph's, the Tigers remained in the hunt thanks to effective three-point shooting.

The Hawks began to widen a slim advantage when junior guard Darrin Govens hit a pair of foul shots and Nivins scored with 8.3 seconds remaining. They went to the locker room at the half with a 38-31 lead.

St. Joseph's kept the momentum going at the start of the second half, opening with a 5-0 run and then bolting to a lopsided 67-45 advantage with just over 10 minutes to play.

Nivins finished with 25 points and Govens collected 22. The Chester High graduate connected on 4 of 10 three-point attempts.

Senior guard Tasheed Carr added 11 points for the Hawks while junior guard Garrett Williamson grabbed 10 rebounds.

Junior Hairston scored a team-high 16 points for Towson. Brian Morris added 14.

The Hawks dominated the boards with a 40-22 rebounding advantage. St. Joseph's sizzled from the field, shooting 51.7 percent.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.