BUFFALO, N.Y., March 18 (UPI) -- Jameer Nelson scored 22 of his season-high 33 points in the first half Thursday and St. Joseph's opened the NCAA Tournament by routing Liberty, 82-63.
The top-seeded Hawks (28-1) played for just the second time in 16 days, having seen their bid for an unbeaten season ruined by Xavier in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
"We were just anxious to get back out on the court and get out the bad taste the last game left us," said St. Joseph's Coach Phil Martelli.
Nelson scored nine points in the first 3:03 as St. Joseph's raced to a 9-1 lead. By halftime, the lead was at 46-26 and Nelson was seven of 11 from the field.
"I told him (Nelson) before the game that this is what great players live for," Martelli said. "Great players lead in these situations"
Liberty got no closer than 18 in the second half.
St. Joseph's meets eighth-seeded Texas Tech in the second round.