BALTIMORE - There were 17,390 fans in the stands when Saint Joseph's lost by 29 points to then No. 11 Creighton on Saturday at the CenturyLink Center in Nebraska.
When the Hawks played here in Charm City on Tuesday night, a crowd of just 1,223 gathered at the Physical Education Complex for the non-conference game between Saint Joseph's and host Coppin State.
So Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, in his 550th game in 18 seasons with the Hawks, certainly understood the psyche of his team in the drastic change of venues.
"Tonight was human nature. You go from 17,000 to a couple hundred. They are kids," said Martelli, after his team allowed a 15-0 run in the first half before coming back from a halftime deficit for a 67-55 win. "The only positive out of Saturday was it was collective. It was not finger-pointing."
The Hawks are 5-2 and have a week off before facing Villanova.
Coppin State (1-7) was picked to finish 10th in the 13-team MEAC while Saint Joseph's is an Atlantic 10 favorite. The Eagles, who got 27 points and 12 rebounds from Michael Murray, also lost on the road Saturday: at top-ranked Indiana.
Martelli said a big key to the win was Chris Wilson, who came off the bench to score 10 points with nine rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes. Starter Ronald Roberts, who has been bothered by a thigh contusion, had six points in 22 minutes.
"Chris Wilson was able to play the point guard spot. We went with him early and he was productive," Martelli said.
The coach was not happy that the Hawks allowed Murray, an undersized forward, to grab seven offensive boards.
"That has to be talked about," he said.
Carl Jones had 15 points and fellow starters C.J. Aiken and Langston Galloway added 14 for the Hawks, who had 14 turnovers and just 12 assists on 23 field goals.
"Creighton of course was a tough environment to play in. Coming in here, we didn't pay attention to anything outside our team," Wilson said. "We just wanted to bounce back. We had a terrible taste in our mouth" after losing at Creighton.''
Forward Halil Kanacevic had six points and 12 rebounds for Saint Joseph's, which trailed by one at halftime but took the lead for good on a three-pointer by Jones to make it 39-36 with 15:06 to go.
"You can't make that excuse," Kanacevic said of the lack of buzz compared to facing Creighton on the road. "Everyone [on Coppin State] is a college athlete. They earned a scholarship just like we did."
Patrick Cole of the Eagles had all of his seven assists in the first half, and Saint Joseph's was able to open up its running game after intermission.
Saint Joseph's led 28-16 late in the first half before CSU went on a 15-0 run to take a 31-28 lead with 1:10 left before intermission. The Eagles led 31-30 at halftime.
"In the first half they outraced us," Martelli said. "We played the whole first half on our heels. In the second half were proactive. We had stops and we were able to get the ball down the floor."
Galloway, held to three points in the first half, hit two baskets early in the second half to give the Hawks a 34-31 lead. His basket and free throw made it 52-44 with 10:49 left and the Hawks took their first 10-point lead, 54-44, on two free throws by Aiken with 9:01 to go.
Galloway hit a three-pointer to give the Hawks a 61-49 lead with 5:25 to go and the Hawks were on their way to the win. The visitors won the battle of the boards, 42-31, and held CSU to 37.1 percent shooting from the field.
"I am not disappointed. I am not ecstatic. We came here to win a basketball game and improve," Martelli said.
St. Joe's freshman forward Isaiah Miles is from Baltimore and played as a senior at nearby Milford Mill Academy. He did not score in 3 minutes of action . . . Coppin coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell is also from Philadelphia and so is associate coach Keith Johnson, who played for John Chaney at Cheyney . . . Coppin State is 4-15 against Atlantic 10 Conference teams.