YOU KEEP coming back to the arena because you never know if this is the game where you will see something you have never seen before. You might just appear at Hagan Arena on the night Phil Martelli wins more games than any coach in the glorious history of Saint Joseph's basketball. And, on that same night, you might see a power forward nearly get a triple-double without scoring a point.
Martelli, in his 17th season as St. Joe's coach, won game No. 310 as the Hawks overwhelmed Morgan State, 81-50. Sophomore Halil Kanacevic, playing his 13th game for SJU, had 10 assists, six rebounds and four blocks by halftime. He finished with 12 assists, eight rebounds, seven blocks and 0 points. It was that kind of night.
Almost everyone in the sold-out crowd stayed after the game as Martelli was presented with a game ball at midcourt. SJU athletic director Don DiJulia said: "In the 112 years of Saint Joseph's basketball, there have been great teams, great players and great coaches."
Bill Ferguson, DiJulia said, won 309 games in 25 years. Martelli, he said, got 310 in his 17th season.
"I hope for 310 more," Martelli said. "This is especially for my wife, children and father and for my main man Chris DiJulia."
That would be Don's son, the Hawks' No. 1 fan.
"I'm delighted to get the number with this group," Martelli later in the pressroom. "In a lot of ways, they've been knocked down because of the last 2 years. They were genuinely excited for me. It meant a lot to them to play in that game."
There wasn't much to analyze in the game. SJU (10-3) was quite sharp on offense early, as Kanacevic playing at the top of the key, picked apart the Bears zone with one smooth pass after another. The Bears (2-8) made five of their first eight shots. And missed 19 of their next 21.
Morgan State made 18 shots and had 17 others blocked, as the Hawks broke the school record they set against Drexel a month ago.
It was as if SJU was honoring the memory of Morgan State legend Marvin "The Human Eraser" Webster who averaged eight blocks per game for the 1974 Division II national champions before going on to a very good NBA career. Webster, sadly, passed away last year.
No way Kanacevic ever heard of the man, but he was channeling the Eraser and Larry Bird without scoring. (His assists led to 27 points.)
"And was the best player on the court," Martelli said. "When I saw at halftime, I actually thought it was a typo that he had 10 assists. He is an interesting player. I'm not into these new labels, but you want to see a point forward, there's a point forward."
Kanacevic was clearly having fun, but only knew two numbers, 310 and 0.
"The only stat I knew was not having any points," he said. "It might sound selfish, but I don't mean it that way. The last game I had like that was probably back in high school."
And he fouled out with 5 minutes left in the game.
"As long as we score and win, I'm happy," Kanacevic said. "Our guards and our big men do a great job getting open. If they're that open and I see them, it's just a simple pass. And they're making the shot. It's not me."
But it was him, putting up one of the unique stat lines in Big 5 history.
SJU is now 7-0 at home and has won every game with points to spare. They shot 51.6 percent last night, getting 30 from the terrific backcourt of Tay Jones and Langston Galloway, 15 off the bench from dunk machine Ronald Roberts and another 10 from understated but very efficient backup point guard Chris Wilson. C.J. Aiken, the nation's leading shot blocker, got to watch his teammates block 15 shots.
"I just told the team we've proven we can play here," Martelli said. "Now, we have 18 league games left really. Harvard [in Boston Saturday] is a league game. They're an Atlantic 10-level team. Penn's an Atlantic 10-level team and 16 league games. What will separate is how we play on the road."
The Hawks have seven more at Hagan, two at the Palestra (Penn, La Salle) and the rest on the road.
Morgan had been competitive at Xavier and USC. It hung around against unbeaten Murray State. The Bears crushed Loyola Marymount, which is the only team to beat Saint Louis. Morgan was never a factor against the Hawks.
Jones was here for the two seasons of losing. Now, he is here for this, a season with serious promise.
"I'm still trying to digest everything that is going on," Jones said. "I've lost so many games since I've been here. I'm real glad we get to win now."
Jones said toward the end of last season that the losing was about to end. He was right on that. And he was right there last night, running the show on the night Martelli coached game No. 522 at a school that has produced a legendary coach like Jack Ramsay and so many Ramsay coaching descendants of renown. Now, Phil Martelli has won more games on Hawk Hill than any of them, too.