Carl Jones peeled off his St. Joseph's jersey and revealed the upper torso of a middle-school student. A skinny middle-school student, at that.

"One hundred fifty-five, to be exact," the 5-foot-11 freshman guard said when asked his weight. "I was 146 when I got here, but I've gained almost 10 pounds. A lot of good food."

Jones proved last night that his skin and bones conceal a big heart as he scored 12 of his 18 points in the final 91/2 minutes to help St. Joseph's hold off well-drilled and determined Holy Cross, 69-67, at Hagan Arena.

When Hawks coach Phil Martelli pointed out Jones to some media members before a practice last week and spoke about his scoring prowess, the first thought that came to mind was, "You've got to be kidding."

"This kid's got a big ticker," Martelli said after St. Joe's (2-0) won even though Holy Cross (0-2) dominated the boards, outrebounding the Hawks by 50-33. "His defense was suspect, but we can work on that. He's a guy who can put the ball in the basket."

Asked whether Jones is as calm as he appeared to be at crunch time, Martelli said: "He's nuts, really. He has a swagger that you would swear Bernard Hopkins just walked into the room. But he's got all that stuff. He's got those little floaters. He's a better foul shooter than he's shown. I expect him to make every free throw."

Jones employed all that "stuff" to score more than 2,000 points at Garfield Heights High in Ohio, averaging 25.0 points as a senior and 24.4 as a junior. He was the Northern Ohio Player of the Year last season.

Jones admitted to a case of the jitters in Friday's season-opening win over Drexel, but he said he was accustomed to playing against older, bigger players.

"The first game, there were butterflies, but I've been playing against older people my whole life, so I was OK," he said. "It doesn't scare me. It's basketball, and I'll go out and play my game."

Jones gave the Hawks their first lead with a three-pointer early, and they held it throughout the game, but Holy Cross, which had beaten St. Joe's each of the last two seasons, never allowed them to extend the lead to double figures.

The Crusaders pulled even at 63-63 on a three-pointer by Devin Brown with 2 minutes, 26 seconds to go. Jones regained the lead with a floater from the lane, and, after Holy Cross tied it again, he drained a pair of free throws with 1:27 remaining. Jones then gave St. Joe's a four-point lead with two more free throws with 15.4 seconds left.

Martelli was pleased with the defense and the fact that nine Hawks had scored. But he warned there will be trouble if they continue to get pounded on the boards as they did by Holy Cross, which had a 22-9 advantage in offensive rebounding and outscored St. Joe's, 28-13, on second-chance points.

"We got walloped on the glass, and that is grave cause for concern," he said.

Freshman guard Justin Crosgile has been cleared to practice. Crosgile had surgery Oct. 9 to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. The injury occurred during a pickup game.

The Hawks were heading to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, to play three games in their first trip to the Paradise Jam, beginning with a game vs. Boston College on Friday. They will play either Purdue or South Dakota State on Saturday or Sunday, then close out the tourney with a game Monday. Other teams in the event are DePaul, Tennessee, East Carolina, and Northern Iowa.

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.