WHEN JOHN CHANEY retired last March, Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said he would have to throw his Temple notes out. It would still be many of the same players, but it would not be the same.
One thing has not changed. St. Joe's still has Temple's number. The schools played for the 142nd time last night. The Palestra had very few empty seats, even though Temple could miss the postseason for the first time in 24 seasons as St. Joe's appears to be figuring out exactly what it will become.
The Hawks took control late in the first half, went completely off at the start of the second half, opened up a 30-point lead and won, 92-76, beating the Owls for the 10th time in the last 11 games. St. Joe's (17-10, 9-4 Atlantic 10) has won four straight and has one of those precious A-10 Tournament byes firmly in its sights. Temple (11-15, 5-8) is still trying to find a way to stop people.
"Up by 30," the kind St. Joe's students chanted.
The Owls could not stop the Hawks on Jan. 10 at the Liacouras Center. And they could not stop them last night. In the two games, the Hawks front line of Ahmad Nivins, Pat Calathes and Rob Ferguson scored 104 points. Last night, Calathes (27 points, seven assists, seven rebounds) flirted with a triple double again. He shot 10-for-15, 4-for-4 from the arc and 3-for-3 from the foul line.
"Calathes was unbelievable," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "His line is fantastic. He's getting to be as good a player as there is in the area . . . He's been great. He buried us there in the first part of the second half."
When told of the praise, Calathes said: "That means a lot coming from him."
The Owls' big three, Dionte Christmas, Mark Tyndale and Dustin Salisbery, the first, third and fifth leading scorers in the A-10, came in averaging 56.4 points among them. They scored 48, most long after the game was decided.
Christmas did not play the game's first 5 minutes and finished with only 10 points.
"That kid has got as much zest for the game as anybody I've ever coached," Dunphy said. "I'm kind of a stickler for perfection. While I don't expect it, I want the attempt made all the time. So he had a little hiccup the other day."
Then, the coach invented a word by saying: "We have no time to be hiccing up at this point of the season."
The Owls have gone from a slowdown team to a much faster pace. But they have to score a lot to win. Scoring 93 is probably asking too much.
St. Joe's came into the game allowing only 63.2 points per game, fewest in the A-10. The Owls came into the game shooting 46.6 percent, their best since the 1983-84 season. They shot 44.6 percent percent for the game. It was not nearly enough. The Hawks shot 60.3 percent, 71.4 percent in the second half, when they made 12 of their first 13 shots.
"The ball was moving," Martelli said. "The ball was in the right place. A lot of it was not calls. It was just basketball. That's the way I prefer to play."
Nivins (18 points, 10 rebounds) took only 21 shots in his last four games. He got 12 against the much smaller Owls.
The Hawks were incredibly efficient, scoring the 92 points on only 58 field goal attempts. In the two games with Temple, they scored 172 points, while taking 103 shots.
"The defensive attention was terrific across the board until we decided it was over, then we did not have to guard anymore," Martelli said. "The number that jumps out is the 23 assists on the 35 field goals."
With some very important games on the horizon, the Hawks are playing the way all of Martelli's recent teams have played down the stretch. In the last seven seasons, the Hawks have won 158 games. They are 23-6 in city games over the last five seasons.
"We're playing better and better every game," Calathes said.
The Owls have some serious issues.
"We played absolutely no defense," Tyndale said. "They made shots. We missed . . .
"It's something about St. Joe's. They just play great against Temple. They come to play and Temple does not."
The only downer for St. Joe's was freshman point guard Darrin Govens' flying out of a loose-ball scrum grabbing his left ankle with 1:56 left.
"He got hurt?" the always-sympathetic Martelli said. "I didn't see that. He was writhing in pain . . . "
Said Hawks trainer Bill Lukasiewicz: "It doesn't look bad right now. He was a little scared at first."
Govens had an ice bag on his ankle in the locker room.
"It was just a loose ball," he said. "[Tyndale] landed on my ankle, and it bent in . . . I don't know how bad it is yet."