Saint Joseph's had not played a game in a week. Had not won a game in a month.
Hagan Arena was about half full of those willing to brave the cold and the roads and forego the fourth quarter of the Eagles game. They came to see the Hawks against the Mountain Hawks.
Lehigh had played St. Joe's 13 times without winning. Make it 14.
The Hawks won, 77-66. It wasn't that simple. With this team, it won't be.
It was interesting, but not artistic enough to hang in the nearby Barnes, if the great museum collected basketball classics, instead of Renoirs.
St. Joe's was playing without third-leading scorer and one of its best (only?) rebounders, Idris Hilliard, out with what coach Phil Martelli said was a "failure to comply with university and team academic standards." Hilliard is practicing and will play in the Dec. 29 game at Siena.
The six-game losing streak is over. Hard to say if the Hawks are getting better or just that the opposition was not Villanova or Minnesota, the last two teams to beat them.
St. Joe's (4-6) has been getting killed on the boards all season. So, Martelli, perhaps realizing his team isn't getting any bigger, made the seemingly counterintuitive move to go even smaller, playing four guards much of the game. In fact, four guards were on the floor when the Hawks made up an early, first-half deficit and when they made the decisive run that won the game.
"I kept looking for combinations that would give us a little bit more," Martelli said.
What the small lineup did was get up in Lehigh's ballhandlers on defense and rev up an offense that had been stagnant. St. Joe's was running on misses and turnovers.
When he looked at it later, Martelli thought the small lineup worked pretty well against Villanova. It may turn out this will be the best way for this team to play.
"It allowed us to play at a proper pace," Martelli said.
The defense was triggered, as it often is, by senior Garrett Williamson. He had one of his classic lines - eight points (2-for-8 shooting), 11 rebounds, seven steals and three assists. He guarded Lehigh's point guard and its power forward.
"If I only made some shots," Williamson said with a laugh.
Lehigh (4-6) led, 10-0, after 2 minutes. That didn't seem right. And it wasn't.
The Hawks outscored Lehigh by 17 to get a first-half lead and then promptly got outscored by 14, ending the first and starting the second. When losing seemed possible, as the Hawks trailed 52-45 with 11 minutes left, they promptly ran off 15 straight and 26 of the next 30.
"What we talked about [in the time off] was, 'Enough is enough,' " Martelli said of the losing. "At some point, we had to get five guys on the floor that would look at each other and say, 'That's enough.' "
He found that group. It just happened to be almost all guards.
"That was a combination that broke the ball loose and got us up and down the floor a little bit," Martelli said.
Hawks center Todd O'Brien fouled out in just 7 minutes. Freshman forward Carl Baptiste, getting his first major run, was 6-for-6 (13 points) from the field, had five rebounds and two blocks in the first half. He got his fourth foul with 11 1/2 minutes left.
So, with the bigs in foul trouble, the Hawks went really small and made the run that won the game.
"So many fingers and so many holes," Martelli said of the dike that is his team.
St. Joe's had five in double figures, got 30 points from its young bench, 15 points, five assists and three steals from senior Darrin Govens and had enough positive moments to make one think that some potential is there beneath the surface.
Not sure what this means, but, with the Atlantic 10 lurking early next month, it is worth noting Lehigh played at Richmond and lost, 65-53. They played at Dayton, losing 89-71.
Where the Hawks fit into the A-10 will be determined in 2010.
"After the Minnesota game, we brought the guys in, me and Darrin, and we just sat them down and told them, 'This isn't what we do, this isn't how we operate and we're not going to accept being losers,' " Williamson said.
They told the younger players, Williamson said, that "it has to be changed and it starts right now. Everybody has to buy in."
"The coach came at us, too, with the same kind of speech, just holding guys accountable," Williamson said. "We've got a lot of season left. We can't count ourselves out."