When St. Joseph's gets its transition game going, the Hawks are a difficult team to defend and a pretty enjoyable one to watch.
Displaying an array of crowd-pleasing dunks that finished off the break, the Hawks ran their way to Saturday night's 74-58 win over Villanova in a Big Five game at Hagan Arena.
Yes, it was at Hagan Arena, the 4,200-seat campus facility. It was the first time the Hawks had hosted Villanova on campus.
The arena was packed and loud.
St. Joseph's is now 8-3 and 1-0 in the Big Five while Villanova is 6-5, 2-2.
Guard Langston Galloway had 20 points for the Hawks, while backcourt mate Carl Jones fought off an ankle injury to score 15.
Maalik Wayns finished with 19 for Villanova.
Coming off last week's 80-71 win over previously unbeaten and nationally ranked Creighton, there was a question as to whether the Hawks would suffer a letdown. Then again, this is St. Joseph's-Villanova, the proclaimed Holy War.
Emotion wasn't lacking, and neither were the dunks, for St. Joe's. The offense started from the defense.
"Whenever we get stops defensively we can get some run out of that," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. "In the first half, we didn't string stops together."
Maybe that's why St. Joseph's held just a 30-27 lead in the first half, despite leading by as many as nine points.
The second half was a different story.
Early in the second half, the Hawks went on a 7-0 run to take their biggest lead to that point, 41-29. Daryus Quarles began the run by completing a three-point play after getting fouled on a backdoor layup. Galloway then added a follow dunk, and Jones completed the run with a pull-up jumper in the lane.
"I thought that run in the second half was big," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
A telling point came with 7 minutes, 11 seconds remaining, when the Hawks extended their lead to 60-47 after 6-foot-9 center C.J. Aiken converted a behind-the-back pass from Jones into a thunderous slam dunk that brought the house down.
Aiken's slam wasn't quite as eye-popping as his first-half, one-handed jam of an alley-oop pass from Galloway, but it still made an impact.
"Sometimes baskets like that are worth more than two points," Martelli said.
Aiken and 6-8 sophomore Ronald Roberts Jr. appeared to be staging a competition as to who could make the more spectacular dunks.
"When you finish like Ron and C.J., it makes for a spectacular day," Martelli said.
Aiken ended with 11 points and four blocked shots, while Roberts had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Villanova was done in by its perimeter game. The Wildcats shot just 5 of 27 from beyond the arc (18.5 percent).
Jones was a game-time decision after tweaking his ankle during practice last week.
'Nova also had a key player with an ankle injury, center Mouphtaou Yarou, who scored just two points in 11 minutes.
"They did a really good job playing with the lead and spread us out, and their guards made great decisions," Wright said.
Both Wright and Martelli lauded the crowd for its enthusiasm and sportsmanship. The St. Joseph's crowd had plenty to cheer about, especially with each successive dunk.