It's not often that a team from one of the power conferences confronts the risk of playing at the campus venue of a small school from a mid-major league.
And, no doubt, there were times Wednesday at Hagan Arena when St. Joseph's had Minnesota coach Tubby Smith and his 22d-ranked Golden Gophers looking over their shoulders.
But try as they might, the Hawks (3-6) couldn't overcome Minnesota's significant advantage in size and firepower and they went down to their fourth straight loss, 83-73.
Sophomore guard Carl Jones scored a career-high 29 points and freshman Langston Galloway had his most productive game with 21 points.
It appeared Minnesota was on the verge of steamrolling the Hawks when it went on a 13-0 run for a 51-37 lead with 13 minutes, 35 seconds remaining. But St. Joe's charged back to within five points as Galloway and Jones each connected on three-pointers and Ronald Roberts gave the Hawks a spark with three straight baskets, including a thunderous dunk.
In one of the angriest outbursts in his 16 seasons as St. Joe's head coach, Phil Martelli yanked off his jacket and hurled it the length of the bench after Roberts appeared to be fouled trying to score inside. The Hawks trailed, 66-59, with just under five minutes remaining.
The Hawks shot an unsightly 23 percent (9 for 39) in the first half, which they trailed by 36-26. Galloway, who had 13 points in the opening 20 minutes, was 4 for 9. So his teammates were a combined 5 for 30 as they had difficulty getting open looks against the bigger, stronger Golden Gophers.
St. Joe's hit a costly dry spell after Daryus Quarles scored on a putback to give the Hawks a 17-14 lead with 11:37 to go in the half. Minnesota went on a 13-3 run as St. Joe's missed nine consecutive shots and had two turnovers on 11 possessions. The Golden Gophers' lead reached 36-23 before Jones drained a three to end the scoring in the half. A dunk by Ronald Roberts was ruled no good because it came after the buzzer.
The Hawks have had trouble against teams with bulky frontcourt bodies, and Minnesota had more muscle than any of their previous opponents. One of them, Maurice Walker, is a 6-foot-10, 289-pound freshman. He outweighed his St. Joe's counterpart, 6-9 C.J. Aiken, by more than 100 pounds. The Golden Gophers also have Ralph Sampson III, a 6-11 junior and son of the former Virginia all-American and NBA standout.
But the most agile among Minnesota's array of brawny frontcourt players was Trevor Mbakwe, who was averaging 10.1 rebounds a game. Largely because of Mbakwe, the Golden Gophers had been outrebounding their opponents by an average of 5.8 a game while St. Joe's was getting outrebounded by 4.2 a game. The 6-8, 240-pound Mbakwe had eight points and nine rebounds at the half.
Minnesota's main weakness was its three-point shooting defense. Cornell made 14 three-pointers in Saturday's loss to the Golden Gophers and Virginia, which handed Minnesota its lone loss, shot 10 for 13 from three. But the Hawks began the game shooting 27.8 percent from behind the stripe.
St. Joe's and Minnesota had a common opponent - Western Kentucky. The Hawks lost to the Hilltoppers on opening night, 98-70, while the Golden Gophers defeated them, 95-77, in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
St. Joe's continues its difficult nonconference schedule Saturday against Creighton in Omaha, Neb.