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Next frontier for Hawks: A-10 tourney

PHILADELPHIA -- Un-de-feat-ed!

Jameer Nelson scored 25 points and Chet Stachitas added a
career-best 16, leading second-ranked Saint Joseph's to a 82-50
victory over St. Bonaventure in the Hawks' final home game Tuesday
night.

"They're far from finished. We got nine games left," Hawks
coach Phil Martelli said.

Only the Atlantic 10 tournament stands in the way of a perfect
season for Saint Joseph's (27-0, 16-0 Atlantic 10). The NCAA
considers conference tournaments part of the regular season, though
no one associated with the school seemed aware of the fact. The
A-10 tourney starts March 10.

That didn't stop the frenzied fans at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse
from chanting: "Un-de-feat-ed!" They started with 3:27 left and
kept going. Then they started yelling, "We want Stanford!"

No team has entered the NCAA Tournament unbeaten since UNLV in
1991. Top-ranked Stanford (25-0) has two games remaining before it
starts the Pac-10 tournament.

"It's been a special season, but we have unfinished business
here," said Nelson, who learned after the game that his No. 14
will be retired.

Patrick Lottin and Ahmad Smith each had 10 points for St.
Bonaventure (6-20, 2-13), which has lost 11 straight.

Saint Joe's, which won by 51 at St. Bonaventure on Jan. 24, came
in as 30-point favorites. The Hawks led by 20 at halftime, and were
never threatened despite a subpar effort.

Nelson had 16 points in the second half, finishing five behind
Bernard Blunt for first place on the school's career scoring list.

It appeared Martelli was going to leave Nelson in to break the
scoring mark. Each time Nelson looked over at Martelli to get a
breather, the coach smiled and shook his head, saying "No."
Finally, Nelson left the court to a standing ovation with 8:08
remaining.

Stachitas had 14 in the first half, including four 3-pointers.
His final 3 gave Saint Joe's a 47-27 lead entering halftime.

A fast-break layup by Nelson off a crisp pass from Delonte West
put the Hawks ahead 59-29 early in the second half, and a pair of
free throws by Stachitas capped a 21-0 run that made it 68-29.

St. Bonaventure went 7:03 without a point as Saint Joe's easily
put the game away. Martelli started pulling his starters with more
than 12 minutes remaining, leaving only Nelson with four subs.

West finished with 15 points and Nelson had eight rebounds and
six assists.

"It's a great feeling," West said. "To go undefeated speaks
volumes. I'm just glad to be part of it."

The 3,200-seat Fieldhouse, which included hundreds of
standing-room-only fans, was jammed with crimson-wearing rowdies
who refused to give up their tickets for any price.

The excitement surrounding the game engulfed this tiny campus.
Fans lined up 4½ hours before tipoff to get into the arena, and
some began tailgating two hours earlier.

Extra lights were put up in the cramped gymnasium, and nearly
two dozen seats were lost because of makeshift construction to
accommodate TV. The university considered moving the game to
another site, but Nelson wanted to celebrate Senior Night at Hawk
Hill.

Nelson and three other seniors were honored in pregame
ceremonies. After the game, Martelli announced Nelson's number will
be retired on April 23.

"One day his records will be broken, but no one will ever wear
the No. 14 again," Martelli said. "He's the greatest player to
ever wear a Saint Joe's uniform."

A priest grabbed the microphone with more than three minutes to
go and implored the crowd not to rush the court after the game so
Nelson, Martelli and senior Tyrone Barley could address the fans.
They listened and stayed in their seats.

"These nets will come down," Martelli said, concluding his
speech. "We're practicing for Dayton. We're practicing for the
Meadowlands. We're practicing for the Alamodome. We will get it
right."