There is another tradition St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli might love more than Big Five games at the Palestra: the Hawks getting hot again down the stretch.
Ahmad Nivins scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Pat Calathes scored a career-high 27 points to lead St. Joseph's to a 92-76 win over Temple tonight.
"We expect to win, and that's the reason we play," Martelli said.
The Hawks (17-10, 9-4 Atlantic Ten Conference) used a 16-0 run at the end of the first half and into the second to beat the Owls for the 10th time in 11 games in this increasingly lopsided city series rivalry. St. Joe's made 12 of its first 13 shots in the second half and won its fourth consecutive game.
"We're playing as a team now," Calathes said. "The offense is there, the defense is there. We're really coming together at the right time."
St. Joseph's also kept its grip on fourth place in the A-10 standings. The top four teams earn the all-important bye in the conference tournament. The Hawks play their next two at Richmond and Xavier, and finish the regular season against Massachusetts.
In each of the last two seasons, the Hawks won five of their last six regular-season games. Last season, the Hawks were 10-11 and then won five straight entering the tournament and three in the tourney. Of course, they were perfect in the final six in 2003-04.
"You can feel it," Martelli said. "In practice, it's just different. They feel good about having won a game and they come in more energized. They handle winning the right way."
But the Hawks may have paid a serious price at the end. Even with St. Joe's coasting in a blowout, Martelli left his starting lineup in until the final minutes. Starting guard Darrin Govens (11 points) sprained his left ankle with 1 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the game and the Hawks leading by 19. He rolled over in agony in front of the scorer's table and was helped off the court.
The Owls (11-15, 5-8) are bumbling toward the conference tourney in Atlantic City. They have lost three straight games and finish the season with three games against teams ahead of them in the standings.
Dustin Salisbery led the Owls with 20 points, and Mark Tyndale had 18. The A-10's leading scorer, Dionte Christmas (21.7 points), did not start, sat out the first five minutes, and scored only 10 points. Coach Fran Dunphy did not reveal specifics but said Christmas was benched because of a recent "hiccup."
No matter whether he made pregame introductions or not. The Hawks were simply too crisp in this one, making 60 percent of their shots and posting a season-high point total.
"The ball was moving, the ball was in the right place," Martelli said. "A lot of it was not calls. It was just basketball."
Calathes hit a pair of three-pointers and Jawan Carter hit one late in the first half to break open a tight game. Calathes came out of a time-out and buried a jumper in the final seconds to send the Hawks into halftime with a 38-29 lead.
Calathes made all four three-pointers and finished 10 for 15 from the floor.
"Calathes was fantastic," Dunphy said. "He's getting to be as good a player as there is in the area."
Even the St. Joseph's students got the better of the Owls. Not only did they keep their usual bleacher seats behind the basket - the Owls students were a section over on the opposite side - the Hawks brought the witty rollouts. One read, "Sticks and goons may break our bones but Temple will never beat us." Another picked up on Temple's futility in football with, "Remember when football had the worst team at Temple?" It all added to the fun of this Big Five matchup.
"I loved it. That's my kind of game," Calathes said.
The Owls might want to forget this one.
Temple was flat and badly outplayed in the second half. Govens hit a three to cap the 16-0 run, and the Hawks never slowed. Calathes sank a three for a 56-33 lead and Rob Ferguson hit one that made it 62-35.