Carl Jones sat back in his chair for a moment and tried to find the right words.
The senior St. Joes guard was about to explain whether the Hawks could take anything positive away from their overtime loss to No. 22 VCU earlier this week before teammate Daryus Quarles abruptly cut him off.
No moral victories, Quarles said.
He is exactly right. With the season inching past the halfway point, the only wins that count are the ones on the scoreboard.
The Hawks made sure to take care of that on Saturday by rebounding with a dominant 79-59 victory over Big 5 rival Penn at the Palestra (see Instant Replay).
I think we bounced back really good. We didnt let Thursday linger into today, Jones said. We went out there and played our game.
Were older. Penn plays extraordinarily hard, but theyre just not there experience-wise, St. Joes head coach Phil Martelli said. So we had to bring energy. We couldnt say, I left all my energy on Thursday night. You only get 30 chances here.
While their minds might have been in the game at tip-off, the Hawks bodies were clearly still in Richmond, Va. St. Joes (10-6) was sluggish at the start as Penn (3-14) grabbed a slim early lead.
The Hawks were finally able to shake off their struggles after the midway point of the first half. With 7:08 remaining in the frame and the game tied at 17, St. Joes came roaring out of a timeout with an 11-0 run.
Jones (15 points) and guard Langston Galloway (20 points, 10 rebounds) began to find their range on offense. That got the home crowd (the matchup was a Big 5 home game for St. Joes) rocking inside the arena.
Defensively, Quarles and fellow reserve Evan Maschmeyer brought the intensity the Hawks were lacking early on with steals and deflections.
I think a guy that didnt score that had an impact on the game was Evan Maschmeyer. Daryus Quarles certainly had an impact on the game in the firs half, Martelli said.
I still think it was the defensive end of the floor. We got stops and we could get down the floor. ... You need that type of energy.
The numbers certainly back up Martellis thinking. The Hawks clamped down on the Quakers during that critical run, holding them without a point for 5:21 of game time. St. Joes smothered Penn into a dismal 32.3 percent shooting in the first half, including just 10 percent from three-point range.
In all, the Hawks ended the frame on a 15-4 spurt to effectively close out the half.
It is OK that we struggled to score the ball the rest of the first half, but we have to make sure that the opposing team struggles as well, Penn head coach Jerome Allen said.
The Hawks stout defense predictably slipped in the second half after securing such a large lead. After intermission, they allowed 38 points to the Quakers, who were led by big man Darien Nelson-Henry with a team-high 17.
However, SJU turned up its own offense following halftime as it poured in 47 points in the second half.
Coming off that heartbreaking loss, we were right there so close but so far away. Stepping up this game and coming out getting a win is big, Galloway said.
The Hawks werent about to let this one slip away. Not after Thursdays defeat and not when a majority of the players on the roster had never captured a win over Penn.
I thought it was interesting, they dont talk a whole lot but when they came off the court for the pregame talk, Ron Roberts said something to Langston, Martelli recalled. You know we never beat these dudes? When they were freshmen they lost to Penn. When they were sophomores they lost to Penn.
Pretty much our whole game plan was to finally get a win against UPenn, Galloway said.
It was definitely frustrating. Last year, we could have won the whole Big 5 if we just would have beat Penn. We stepped up and finally got a win over them."
E-mail Matt Haughton at email@example.com.