PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Saint Joseph’s won’t celebrate its latest victory for long. Someone scrawled on the chalkboard in the locker room the scores of Dayton’s two wins against the Hawks last season.
Up next for the Hawks? The Flyers on Wednesday.
“I’m going to enjoy this until the middle of the night, then I’ll start thinking about Dayton,” coach Phil Martelli said.
The Hawks extended their school-record winning streak to 20 games Saturday, routing La Salle 89-63 behind 22 points from Delonte West and 20 from Jameer Nelson.
The third-ranked Hawks (20-0, 9-0 Atlantic 10) and No. 2 Stanford (20-0) remain the only unbeaten teams in Division I. Stanford beat No. 12 Arizona 80-77 on Saturday.
“We know Dayton’s a good team and we’ll start thinking about them tomorrow,” Nelson said. “Nobody in here is getting ahead of themselves. That’s how we keep winning, by only focusing on the next game.”
Saint Joseph’s has seven regular-season games left, all against A-10 opponents, and only three more games against teams with winning records. The Hawks host Dayton (18-3, 8-0), with two more games left against Rhode Island.
Dayton plays Sunday at Massachusetts (9-11, 3-5). The Flyers beat the Hawks 65-55 and 76-73 last season.
“I keep hearing we’ll finish the regular season undefeated,” West said. “We’ve still got Temple again, we’ve got Dayton. None of these guys are going to say Saint Joe’s coming, so we might as well write that one down as a loss.”
The Hawks had been tested in each of their last two games against two of the Philadelphia area’s Division I schools, beating Temple by 12 and Villanova by seven.
La Salle (8-13, 3-5) kept this one close for a while, playing some its best basketball of the year in the first 13 minutes. Steven Smith scored 11 of La Salle’s first 19 points—including a four-point play—to keep the score tied at 19-all.
The Explorers couldn’t keep pace after that.
Pat Carroll sank a 3-pointer from the left baseline, starting a 10-2 run and giving the Hawks the lead for good. Carroll also converted a four-point play with 2.5 seconds left for a 46-32 halftime lead.
West and Nelson continued to play like the best backcourt in the nation, breaking down the defense by attacking the basket off the dribble. They combined to make 15 of 23 shots from the floor with 10 assists and only three turnovers. West also scored his 1,000th career point, becoming the 42nd Hawk to reach that mark.
“The dynamic duo got us today,” said La Salle coach Billy Hahn. “It’s so hard to contain them. They’re as good as any backcourt I’ve seen along the way.”
It was the seventh time this year Nelson and West each scored 20 points in the same game.
“Both their guards are NBA players,” Hahn said.
Nelson hit a couple of 3-pointers as the Hawks opened the second half on a 23-7 run to put the game away.
Smith led the Explorers with 24 points and Jermaine Thomas had 15. La Salle, though, got little production from Gary Neal, who came in averaging 20.3 points but was held to only seven points.
In front of a raucous and sold-out Palestra crowd, the Explorers seemed inspired early, swapping the lead through most of the first 10 minutes. Mike Cleaves hit a 19-footer for a 19-17 lead with 8:31 left, but the Explorers never led again.
“We’ve trailed before and we’ve been prepared,” Nelson said. “We have a mature enough team that understands we’re going to take our punches, but we’re going to throw our punches.”
La Salle’s student section quieted early. Saint Joe’s finished with the now familiar chant of “Un-de-feat-ed!”
No Division I team has finished undefeated since Indiana went 32-0 in 1975-76. The closest anyone’s come since was UNLV in 1990-91, which finished the regular season unbeaten before losing to Duke in the national semifinal.