LIVE: St. Joe’s-Drexel Game blog

10:15- That’s all for tonight; hope you enjoyed our live blog from the first ever game at the Hagan Arena. A thought to go home with: The Hawks lost their first game in the old Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse in 1949, a 62-46 loss to Rhode Island. Just some food for thought about what the next sixty years may have in store.

Goodnight everybody.

10:10- Well, it was far from pretty on both ends–“Not a thing of beauty,” as Martelli put it–but the Hawks were able to get it done tonight, and all with Garrett Williamson as a spectator for most of the overtime period. Govens stepped up big in the waning minutes to add some shine to an overall lackluster performance in which Martelli said he “started the first half too slow, and then in the second half, played at a pace he’s not capable of.” He still finished with a game-high 23, 18 of which came in the second half and overtime.

Lots of credit has to go to the youngsters, with Carl Jones (who missed out on the start only because of a missed class this week) and Todd O’Brien coming up huge down the stretch. O’Brien nailed the eventual game winner, and finished with nine points and eight rebounds. Jones was Martelli’s go-to guy down the stretch, logging 31 minutes and finishing with 13 points, including 9 of 12 from the line.

Also in double figures for the Hawks was Idris Hilliard, who slowed in the second half with only one field goal, but still managed 16 points and seven rebounds while leading the Hawks with 40 minutes played. Williamson, despite eight turnovers, also chipped in 11. He and Govens combined for 13 of the Hawks’ 19 turnovers, against just 11 total assists on the game, which was one of Martelli’s biggest post-game concerns.

The Dragons were led by 20 points from Jamie Harris, and a double-double total of 16 points and 12 rebounds. Derrick Thomas added 14 on 4-11 from three. Evan Neisler was held in check tonight, managing just three points on 1-3 shooting against five fouls. Despite a 45-34 rebounding edge for the Dragons, they committed eight more fouls and allowed the Hawks over twice as many free throw opportunities (42 to 20), which the Hawks converted at a 78.6 percent clip (33-42). The Dragons also had three players, including two starters, foul out to go along with a technical foul and two intentional fouls.

But the star of the show tonight, according to Martelli, was the at least 1,700-man strong student section, which he admitted “choked him up”.

“If I had dreamed what it would look like, not that I did, but that would have surpassed my dream,” he said. “They lifted our team with their energy, and I salute them for that.”

9:41- And he does, and earns a standing ovation while departing to Phil Martelli riling up the student section. fINAL SCORE 77-67. A fantastic night even from this admittedly pessimistic observer; and one that will stay in the hearts of St. Joe’s fans for many years to come.

9:39- Govens gets fouled again on the ensuing possession and buries two more from the line, followed by a steal by Hilliard that sends Jones to the line to make it 10.

9:37- WHAT A SEQUENCE FOR THE HAWKS!!!! Govens has a bank shot go in and out, but O’Brien cleans up the mess with an AUTHORITATIVE move to the hoop for a hook shot off the glass. Govens then recovers a turnover for a lay-in, plus an intentional foul and the ball. IT’S A 6-0 RUN TO TAKE A 73-67 LEAD.

9:36- A travel by Spencer gives the Hawks the ball in a tie game with yet another chance to take the lead….

9:35- First effort hits bank iron and hangs tantalizingly before rimming out. Second one is true. We’re knotted up again, this time at 67.

9:34- …..and has the second go off the rim. Jones pushes the ball at the end, knocking Harris out of the game with his fifth foul. Harris has had a strong game running the point, and is their best foul-shooter at 80 percent last year. Jones to the line; O’Brien responded to first-college game jitters; let’s see how the freshman does.

9:33- Phillips in for Neisler, while Govens hits one of two to cut the lead to a single point. Govens commits an unpopular foul, but one that was called correctly, on the other end. Thomas misses the first….

9:31- Drexel comes up empty, and Govens comes back with an authoritative drive to the rim that eliminates Neisler with his fifth foul. Govens heads to the line with a chance to tie it up with 2:04 left.

9:29- O’Brien hits one of two, Drexel up 67-65 with 2:51 left.

9:28- Thomas drains his fourth three of the evening, giving Drexel a three-point advantage. O’Brien responds with a drive to the basket that sends him to the line.

9:28- Williamson picks up his FIFTH! It was a ticky-tack, off the ball foul on the offensive end that I didn’t even notice, but he now has to sit for Prescott. Meanwhile, Spencer re-enters on the change of possession.

9:27- It’s a sweet stroke form the big man, who knocks down both for the two-point lead. But Harris equalizes on a lay-in after an extended offensive possession thanks to an Evan Neisler offensive rebound.

9:24- O’Brien, Hilliard, Jones, Govens, and Williamson to start the overtime. Colds, Harris, Neisler, Thomas and Spencer for Drexel, but Spencer turns an ankle on the tip, which goes to St. Joe’s and has to come out for Kevin Phillips. Phillips immediately picks up a foul, sending O’Brien to the line.

9:21- Williamson takes the ball the length of the court ans buries a running jumper in the lane over a defender to tie the game at 62. Harris gets a shot off at the buzzer, but Williamson did just enough to take him off course, and his running 25-footer just clanks back iron. It’s time for overtime. What a way to reopen this old barn!!!!!

9:19- Harris take the ball and runs straight at Jones, who gives way without much fight, forcing O’Brien into a foul, his fourth. Irwin enters the game, while Harris swishes the first…………….and rattles the second home. Flint uses his final timeout–we’ll discuss the philosophy later–with the Hawks staring down a two-point deficit with 9.3 seconds left.

9:17- An insane and serendipitous sequence for the Hawks, as Williamson heads strong to the basket and finds Hilliard, how’s shot is rejected by Spencer, straight into the waiting arms of Govens behind the arc who sinks the tray and ties the game at 60 all. Martelli takes his last timeout; Drexel ball, 14.6 seconds left.

9:15- First one clanks front iron, but the second one hits nothing but twine, giving the Dragons a 60-57 lead. Flint takes a time out; each team has one timeout remaining on the game reset, while the arrow favors the Dragons. Both teams are in the double-bonus.

9:13- Some hard work by Evan Neisler, whose had a quiet game tonight, helps the Dragons maintain possession after a missed shot, and force a foul by the Hawks on the ensuing inbounds play. Neisler, a 70.3 percent free throw shooter last year, heads to the line for two, Dragons up two, 22.6 ticks left.

9:12- A 17-footer by Govens goes off front iron and Drexel takes over possession. Anther chance by the wayside.

9:11- A mishandle by Spencer and the willingness of Williamson to get on the floor gives the Hawks the ball back with 1:29 left and the deficit still at two, 59-57.

9:08- After a strip by Hilliard, the Hawks regain possession and Martelli calls a timeout with 2:12 remaining, down two. The result of the play, a Govens airball from the middle of the lane. Another chance to equalize goes begging.

9:05- A quick raise of the hand by O’Brien volunteering for a foul keeps Williamson on the floor, but sends Gerald Colds to the line, where he converts two free throws. He has just three points on the night after averaging 9.0 per game last year. Williamson answers with two from the line to restore the two-point margin.

9:03- Hilliard, who has been quiet thus far in the second half, makes a nice move in the lane, but fails to finish the baby hook. Samme Givens fouls out on the play, and Hilliard heads to the line where he hits one of two, his first miss of the night. Hawks down 57-55 with three and a half to play.

9:01- Something just crossed my mind: Is it really a good idea to run an uptempo offense with a guard who isn’t all that good at it in Govens? Drexel may answer that question more definitively at games end, but for now, Govens makes way for Williamson.

9:00- This just in from New Hampshire, the women’s team fell to a late comeback by the Wildcats, losing 64-56.

8:56- Just another terrible sequence. Govens turns the ball over in transition, then picks up a loose ball on the other end to feed a 27-footer by Jones that’s way off. A Spencer deuce has the lead back up to three at the under four timeout. They’ve been able to close the gap with Williamson on the bench nursing his four fouls, and may get a chance to have him renter now.

8:55- A Bruiser Flint technical foul that was over a half in the making doesn’t help Drexel’s momentum issues, nor does the thunderous “Sit down Bruiser” chants. Govens converts one, but a miss by Irwin keeps the Hawks down one, 55-54.

8:55- Leon Spencer’s 14th point of the night is answered by a rare Bryant Irwin sighting, who hits a three. The lead is down to two, the closest margin for the Hawks since the 15:10 mark of the second half.

8:53- A botched two-on-one by Govens and Prescott (mainly Govens, ghosts of Syracuse two years ago, anyone?) leads to Mark Bass stamping his feet so hard he catapulted himself out of his chair, and Geoff Arnold’s head almost exploding. A hustle play by Jones regains possession at the other end though.

8:51- Just witnessed an odd dancing mash-up that involved the current student section throwing the beat to former superfan Tim Hurley in section 103, who then through it to fellow superfan Glen Todaro in 116, and then back again. Three generations of basketball devotion and bad dancing.

On the court, Jones hits both from the line to cut the deficit to three.

8:50- A heady drive by Jones sends the freshman from Ohio to the line, while Harris heads to the bench with his fourth foul. Hawks down 53-48 with 7:41 left to play.

8:46- Colds takes a questionable charge from Williamson. It’s Williamson’s second offensive foul of the game, and he picks up his fifth trying to stop an open lay-up off the Govens turnover just seconds later. Harris hits two to bring the lead back to seven, while Williamson hits the bench for a breather.

8:42- Crazy sequence here. O’Brien can’t convert on an open lay-up, but manages to get back on defense to pick up a rebound and start the fast break again, which Govens puts away. The senior guard from Chester missed the chance at a three-point play, but O’Brien managed to corral the rebound and find Govens in the right corner for a quick 5-0 run. It’s just the Hawks’ second three-pointer of the night after they depended on the three ball for large streches of last season.

Bruiser Flint wants to discuss things, with the Drexel lead now down to five, 51-46, with 9:17 left.

8:38- Williamson has the Hawks showing something resembling a pulse on the offensive end with a drive to the basket and the point after from the line responding to another three from Harris. Drexel still up 48-41.

8:35- Derrick Thomas has begun to, as Joe Lunardi to my right put it, “assert his will” on this game, draining another three-pointer. That gives him 11 points on the game and, coupled with two straight offensive fouls for illegal screening by Irwin and O’Brien, has the Hawks facing their largest deficit of the game, 45-38, with just over 11 minutes remaining. It’s a big deficit for a team that has stalled offensively with just seven points and two field goals in the half’s first nine minutes.

8:34- How can we start a petition to have Jones and O’Brien switch numbers? I mean, a guard wearing 35 and a center wearing 2? It’s going to bother me all season.

8:33-While nothing is falling for the Hawks, or more accurately, they’re not getting decent high-quality offensive looks, their performance at the line may just save them. They’re in the bonus already with just under 13 minutes to play, starting with two from Jones at the stripe. Drexel still leads 42-38.

8:29- A three by Derrick Thomas opens up the Dragons’ largest lead of the night at 39-35, then adds another trifecta a minute later, after a Carl Jones free throw, to extend the lead to six at 42-36 with 13:53 left.

8:25- An update on the women’s team, who now looks to be gaining a little separation with a 45-39 lead over New Hampshire with 10:43 remaining. The main culprit has been Shelby Smith in her first collegiate game, who has 14 points, including four of six from three-point range.

8:24- It’s been a choppy start to the second 20 minutes, with Drexel already running up four fouls. A Jamie Harris still has the Dragons up 36-35 at the under 16 timeout.

8:21- A Leon Spencer flush ties the game up at 33, but Hilliard responds immediately with a 17-footer. He’s shown great range and great patience tonight. 35-33 SJU with 16:30 left.

8:17- A note on the crowd: in addition to a packed student section, there is about 100-200 people standing upstairs. It’s a very impressive turnout by the Hawk faithful; just don’t tell the Philadelphia fire marshal.

8:15- On the minutes front, Prescott, who earned the start, logged eight minutes to Jones’ 11. It was thought earlier in the week the Jones would force his way into the starting lineup after taking the majority of reps with the first team and Prescott struggling some in practice, but the sophomore from Connecticut got the nod and starts the second half with the rest of St. Joe’s starters.

Nine Hawks saw the court in the first half, with Carl Baptiste bringing up the rear with just three. Hilliard and Williamson led the way with 16 each. Fresh legs down the stretch?

8:10- Well, here at the half, it’s the opening game of the season, and both teams are playing like it. It’s a relatively low scoring half, with both teams combining for 22 field goals and 18 turnovers. Drexel put up 10 more field goal attempts in the first half, going 12-34 from the field, and held a decisive 21-16 edge on the boards. Jamie Harris has eight points and three assists, while Leon Spencer has eight points and seven rebounds at the break.

Hilliard is leading all scorers with 13 points on 2-4 shooting and a perfect nine of nine from the charity stripe. All five starters have a field goal, and the Hawks are shooting 41.7 percent (10-24) from the line. Govens and Jones each have five points, Williamson has four, and O’Brien and Prescott have added two each.

As far as foul trouble, Irwin, Jones, and Bentley each have two, while Drexel’s Samme Givens has three.

7:58- Harris hits two at the line to cut the deficit to one with 30 ticks left, but Williamson drives the lane, draws the double-team and dishes to Hilliard for the old-fashioned three-point play with 6.5 seconds remaining. Harris responds with a lay-in at the buzzer for a 31-29 SJU lead at the half.

7:52- A block-fest gets started with Leon Spencer nearly knocking the swoosh off the ball on a lay-up attempt by Govens, followed by Williamson rejecting Harris on the other end, curing a travel by Jones on the ensuing fast break. I know, I can’t keep up with it either.

7:47- Jones with a coast-to-coast drive finishing in the lay-in, followed by a missed lay-up on a two-on-one with Govens that sends him to the line, where he makes one of two. Earlier flashes from one of Martelli’s most prized recruits this decade not named Jameer Nelson. Drexel then picks up its eighth foul sending Hilliard back to the line for two. 24-21 Hawks.

7:45- For those of you wondering, and I’m sure you are, the Saint Joseph’s women’s team is currently trailing 27-26 at New Hampshire, but are in the midst of a 9-0 run to close the gap. Mariame Djouara leads the team with six points, while Brittany Ford has five.

7:40- Hilliard getting to the line well today and has converted three of four. He and Govens lead the team with five points each. Drexel, mean while, is struggling to get anything started offensively, going 6-23 from the field and 1-4 from the line. It’s 19-16 St. Joe’s with 3:58 left.

7:36- Martelli’s offering a variety of looks today, including a big lineup currently in consisting of Bryant Irwin, O’Brien, and Hilliard. Right on cue, Hilliard misses an 18-footer before Drexel turns the ball over for the second straight trip.

7:34- The fast-paced, uptempo game hasn’t been working all that well for the Hawks just yet today. They are shooting 5-10 from the field, but seven turnovers have slowed them down as a direct result of their fast play. Drexel, despite a very slow start where they couldn’t get anything to go down, seems to be adapting better in a style of play they are more accustomed to, and seem content to let the Hawks attack and counter with fast breaks off turnovers.

7:32- Govens buries a 25-footer over a defender for the Hawks’ first triple of the season, and then has a jumper in the lane go halfway down and out. Better half-court offense from the Hawks, who take a 15-14 lead into the under 8 timeout.

7:28- Just halfway through the first half, St. Joe’s has already rolled out eight players, with the starters now back in the game. But seven turnovers aren’t helping much. O’Brien gets his first collegiate points with a 14-foot jumper to tie things up at 12.

7:23- A beautiful drive to the basket, complete with a little up-and-under and a kiss on the glass, from Tay cuts into the Drexel lead, but Chris Fouch responds with the first three-pointer in the Hagan Arena, followed by Hilliard completing the first dunk in the Hagan Arena. Bruiser Flint wants to talk things over with his team up 12-10 with 10 and a half left in the first.

7:20- Jones not shy in his first collegiate minutes, chucking up a three and following it up with a drive to the hole the next two times down the court. But both lead to turnovers and Drexel fast breaks that, were it not for a pass straight into Rendell’s arms, would margin worse than 7-6 Dragons.

7:17- Dragons end the drought with a free throw from Leon Spencer, followed by a lay-ins by Thomas and Harris. Govens responds with a jumper to restore the Hawks 6-5 lead.

7:14- It’s been only four minutes, but you have to be impressed with O’Brien in the low post. He’s been excellent defending in the low post and has contested everything to come his way. That means we’ll overlook the fact that his number 2 jersey looks ridiculous on a borderline 7-footer.

7:11- Phil Martelli’s renewed pledge to use his bench starts early tonight, with Charoy Bentley and Carl “Tay” Jones checking in for Govens, just guilty of a carry, and Prescott. At the under 16 timeout, the Hawks still hold a 4-0 advantage thanks to an 0-9 performance form the field by the Dragons.

7:09- This game is starting off at a frenetic pace. Drexel has three team fouls already in an attempt to stop the Hawks from moving the ball, while the Hawks have been smart around the goal contesting shots without fouling.

7:07- An O’Brien block leads to a run-out for Williamson who converts the hoop but misses the free throw. 4-0 Hawks.

7:06- Drexel wins the tip, but after an empty possession, the surprise inclusion in the starting lineup Prescott hits a 16-foot runner in the lane to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead.

7:03- Escorted to center court now is Michael Hagan with sons Mike and Colin, along with Neisler and Williamson, for the ceremonial first tip, while the student section offers a “Thank you Mike Hagan” rollout and a “Michael Hagan” chant. I think they’re amped.

7:02- Lineups formally being introduced; A.J. Rogers is now filling the role of official starter-greeter. Williamson looks ready to jump out of the arena.

6:56- Let the festivities begin with the presentation of the Hawk, Brienne Ryan, led out to center court by Jim Brennan, the original Hawk.

6:55- Both teams are out on the court, with the Hawks receiving a resounding ovation form the sardine-style student section. As game-time nears, it’s time for the march of dignitaries from the pregame reception to their seats: Rendell, Hagan, Paul Hondros, Fr. Lannon, et al.

And there’s the first fist pump from Martelli to the student section in Hagan Arena history. Brace yourself, you’re going to get a lot of sentences that start like that tonight.

6:45- On the court, we’ve got Hawk alum Bruiser Flint, ’87,’s second trip to Hawk Hill as the head man at Drexel in nine season, and the team’s first trip here since 2001-2002. The Hawks have lost three of the last five against the Dragons, including last year’s New Year’s Day beat down, but won the previous 14 meeting.

Starting lineups are in. St. Joe’s going with the veteran backcourt duo of Garrett Williamson and Darrin Govens, along with returning starter Idris Hilliard. Todd O’Brien makes his first career start at center, and Chris Prescott, at least for now, has one the hotly contested small forward/wing starting spot.

Drexel counters with Gerald Colds, Jamie Harris, and Derrick Thomas in the backcourt, with Evan Neisler and Leon Spencer up front. Neisler, Colds, and Harris all started last season, while Thomas starts his first collegiate game.

6:40- We’re about 20 minutes before tip-off and both teams are out for final warmups. The student section is packed to the brim; there can’t be more than 25 seats left in the corners, and so far they’re pretty loud. There’s been a lot of talk of some special appearances-Michael Hagan in a ceremonial tip-off, an appearance by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, and maybe some surprises. I’m sitting between Joe Lunardi and Matt Martucci on the radio, so it should be an interesting night.

It’s the beginning of an era here at the Michael J. Hagan, ’85, Arena, with the Hawks squaring off tonight against Drexel to open the 2009-2010 season. We’ve got a special night lined up, with guest appearances and special recognitions to go along with the usual pageantry that is Hawks’ basketball. If you can’t be on 54th Street and City Avenue, we sympathize, so we’ll bring you all the action live right here w ith minute-by-minute updates.
-Matthew De George ’10

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