PRINCETON, N.J. - If you were going to play your third game in 5 days and your second game exactly 41 hours after leaving your archrival's gym, the place to do it would not be Jadwin Gym.
It did not take 5 minutes to make that crystal clear yesterday evening. The basketball began to fly around the court, from one set of Princeton hands to another and then into the basket, time after time after time. The young Saint Joseph's Hawks probably were somewhere between dizzy and exhausted. Bt the time they realized what had hit them, they were essentially out of the game with a lot of game still to be played.
The final was Princeton 74, St. Joe's 65. It seemed much worse and, for a time, it was.
This is not Pete Carril's Princeton. These Tigers are willing to play faster. They played way too fast for the Hawks, leading by a crazy 30-12 after 10 minutes, a mere 120-point pace. The Tigers (5-3) had made 12 of 18 shots, including six threes. On three of their misses, they got the offensive rebound and scored.
It got so bad that the Hawks were down to one timeout with 53 seconds left in the first half after sophomore point guard Carl Jones called one during a scramble for a loose ball. St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli, thinking Jones had been fouled on his way down to the floor, wondered aloud how Jones got there.
"[The official] said he dove on the floor [for a loose ball]," said Martelli.
According to Martelli, the official said "enough." Martelli had been quiet to that point. When he repeated the word "enough" in exasperation he got the technical.
The Hawks (3-5) got some serious juice when the second half began by employing a three-quarter-court trap. It got the Tigers playing even faster than they were. Princeton did not score on its first nine possessions.
And the Hawks, behind the defensive pressure and two Ronald Roberts monster dunks, got a 44-19 deficit with 90 seconds left in the first half down to 50-40 with 12 minutes left in the game. The Tigers started to make shots again and stretched their lead to 17 points. St. Joe's kept playing to the buzzer, which made the score closer than the game.
"I tried to use the concept of the Atlantic 10 Tournament," Martelli said of the quick turnaround. "If you go to the postseason, you have to play with 1 day's rest. That's what I tried to use this particular week."
Jones (24 points, including 4-for-5 from the arc) was terrific again for the Hawks. He got some help in the second half. He needed more in the first.
"We just came out flat, didn't come out with the energy level we should have," Hawks senior forward Idris Hilliard said. "Once that happened, they just buried us and it's kind of a hard hole to climb out of."
St. Joe's shot a nice 51.7 percent in the second half, but Princeton shot 50 percent for the game and had five players in double figures. Forward Patrick Saunders, who had been averaging less than six points and had made only five treys on the season, had three treys early when the Tigers were opening their lead. And Ian Hummer was acrobatic and efficient around the rim on his way to a team-high 17 points. It was all too much for a Hawks team still finding its way.
The coach is still trying to figure out his team, mixing and matching, fitting the concepts to the talent. They had been working on the trap and Martelli liked what he saw on the court during the second half.
"There's things obviously that we have to brush up and have to get better at," Martelli said. "That's a little piece of it. Then, we didn't really match the right way in man-to-man. I have to do more with that."
Martelli was second-guessing himself, wondering if he had the team back on the court Saturday too soon after leaving Villanova at midnight. He was thinking maybe 5 p.m. instead of 2 p.m., wondered if he should have gotten his team up early yesterday for shootaround at Jadwin. The Hawks had their legs in the second half. By then, however, they were simply too far behind.