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Sorry, St. Bonaventure fans: I love the Hawk. The St. Joseph's mascot, voted best in the nation last month by the Sporting News, is one of the East's great traditions. Feathers and all, the student inside the costume flaps his wings non-stop the entire game, often more than 4,000 times.

The role is so prestigious that the student is chosen by a university screening committee, earns a scholarship and travels to all away games.

But therein lies a problem.

The Hawk is an easy target on other teams' home courts, especially because its tradition includes running figure-eights during timeouts -- even on opposing floors. Things have gotten dicier this year because for the first time the Hawk is a woman, former team manager Sara Brennan.

During the first timeout last Saturday at Bona, Brennan did her figure-eights and was immediately accosted by Bona's wolf mascot. Then the Bona flagman brushed her with the school's large flag.

The Bona crowd was already in a surly mood after the St. Joe's players, leaders in the A-10 standings and trash-talking department, held their last-second pregame huddle right at midcourt on top of the Bona wolf logo. So it was no surprise that trouble started when the St. Joe's fans behind the visitors' bench tried to defend the Hawk. A large man came out of the stands and immediately started accosting the students seated beyond the baseline who were taunting the Hawk. A woman followed.

Turns out they were Brennan's parents, understandably testy after she was tripped earlier this year at Drexel and tackled by the Ram at Rhode Island. Doesn't matter. It goes with the territory.

Any other fan who came on the court to confront students would have been arrested after nearly inciting a melee in the stands. They were lucky Bona officials simply brought them back to their seats.

The bigger issue is that it's time for the A-10 to scrap the Hawk's exemption to its rule banning cheerleaders/mascots from road games. St. Joe's should keep the Hawk at home before real trouble occurs.

Fan-unfriendly crowds

It was a bad week in the stands. Niagara got hit with a technical foul during last week's midnight game against Iona after souvenir basketballs thrown into the crowd were tossed back on to the court.

Bona fans pelted St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli and his players with a hail of rubber balls as they left the RC court following their win. Again, the balls were tossed into the crowd, this time as part of a promotion from an Olean supermarket.

Hello, marketing gurus: Is anyone thinking? Doesn't take a degree to figure out these things are going to be projectiles, end up back on the court and cost your team a "T." Why in the world did Bona throw balls into the stands three times?

Was nothing learned from last year's Cookiegate fiasco against Temple?

Terps continue their tumble

There's been no more disappointing team in recent weeks than Maryland. Luke Recker-less Iowa and infighting-riddled Seton Hall are close, but the Terps were supposed to be a Final Four-caliber outfit. They're not even going to be on this corner's Top 25 ballot this week.

Once 14-4, Maryland has lost five of its last six with the lone win over ACC doormat Clemson. The low point came Wednesday with a shocking 74-71 loss to 6-17 Florida State.

The turning point was the Terps' colossal collapse Jan. 27 against Duke, when a 10-point lead with 54 seconds left turned into a 98-96 overtime defeat.

"From there we haven't been able to get it back," coach Gary Williams said Wednesday. "We were playing great (winning 13 of 14) and then we lost that game. We haven't been able to pull out of that."

The Terps better soon. They're just 15-9 overall and 61st in the RPIs (can you spell NIT?) heading into today's game at Wake Forest.

Around the rim

Weekend watch: Check out Wyoming at Creighton today at noon (ESPN). Creighton (19-6) is 25th in the RPIs, by far the highest for a mid-major. Wyoming (16-6) is 48th and already owns one win over Creighton, a 78-74 triumph Dec. 1 in Laramie. But the Cowboys could use another quality win or two. . . . Atlantic 10 coaches are understandly upset that St. Joe's isn't in the Top 25 despite a 20-4 record. Maybe they should talk to the league office, which foolishly sets its television schedule in stone in the fall. While regional cable viewers -- and poll voters -- up and down the East Coast could have seen the Hawks' classic at the Reilly Center last week, the A-10 network instead showed a La Salle-Fordham yawner. Memo to the A-10: Spend the money to make the February games wild-cards for TV and get the best teams more exposure. Otherwise, shut up if they don't get ranked. . . . Baylor's upset of Kansas on Monday night was rooted in comments by Jayhawks guard Kenny Gregory, who said he could handle two previous conference losses because "it's not like we lost to (Texas) A&M and Baylor." Said Baylor high-flyer Terry Black, after keying the win with 20 points: "It wasn't like we beat Duke or North Carolina. It was only Kansas." Touche.

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