PRINCETON - For St. Joseph's, indications of pending disaster came shortly after tip-off Sunday at Jadwin Gym.
One of them was that Princeton's Patrick Saunders drained his first three three-point shots and had nine points in the first four minutes. He went in averaging 5.2 points a game.
Another was that the Tigers Dan Mavraides missed a 25-foot jumper but raced down the lane unobstructed for a putback of his own shot while the Hawks stood there as if they didn't realize the game had begun.
With little more than three minutes remaining in the first half of Princeton's 74-65 win over St. Joe's, the Hawks trailed, 44-19. The Tigers (5-3) could do nothing wrong, and St. Joe's didn't appear to have the energy to prevent them from doing whatever they wanted.
The Hawks (3-5) looked like a team that left its legs at Villanova late Friday night, a team largely of players one year out of high school not accustomed to playing three games in five days.
St. Joe's early-season schedule would have been brutal for a veteran team, let alone one that's building from scratch: At Drexel last Wednesday; at 'Nova in a game that ended past 11 p.m.; then a late-afternoon game at Princeton, an opponent that demands absolute attention.
Afterward, Hawks coach Phil Martelli expressed second thoughts about holding a practice less than 12 hours after leaving Villanova, and about getting his players up early Sunday morning for a shootaround.
"The game was reminiscent of how we practiced," Martelli said. "The back end of the practice, you could see we were weary emotionally and mentally, and against that team you have to be mentally razor-sharp. The reverse happened today. We carried over the second half of practice into the first half of this game.
"There are a lot of things I would reconsider. Maybe we should have practiced later in the day [Saturday]. Maybe I shouldn't have gotten them up this morning for the shootaround because it was flat and dull, and we're not going to do anything well when we're flat and dull."
The Hawks found enough reserve fuel in the tank to avoid a defeat that could have been thoroughly embarrassing. Princeton, which shot 58 percent and was 7 for 15 from three-point distance in the first half, saw a more desperate St. Joe's defense in the second half. On their first nine possessions of the second half, the Tigers failed to score. But the Hawks didn't take full advantage. They did carve their deficit down to 52-42 midway through the second half, but Princeton had too much balance to cave in. Five Tigers scored in double figures.
On the bright side for St. Joe's, sophomore Carl Jones again showed he's a legitimate offensive force with 24 points. Next season, if some of the five freshmen in the rotation show the progress Jones has made in one year, St. Joe's might be on to something.
Freshman Ronald Roberts came off the bench to score 10 points and pull down seven rebounds. He had the Tigers looking over their shoulders for a while. But the Hawks had 17 turnovers that led to 16 Princeton points.
St. Joe's schedule doesn't get any easier. Minnesota, ranked No. 15, plays at Hawk Hill on Wednesday. Then there's a trip to Creighton on Saturday.
"Now we have to catch our breath and play a physically imposing team Wednesday," Martelli said.
At least the Hawks have a couple of days to do that.