In the first ever matchup between Saint Joseph’s and Maryland Eastern Shore, it was the Hawks that came away with the 78-68 victory at Hagan Arena.
Maryland Eastern Shore’s Devin Martin led all scorers with 23 points before fouling out of the game. Saint Joseph’s Isaiah Miles finished the game with a team high 17 points, while DeAndre Bembry posted 15 points and 9 rebounds. Furthermore, James Demery added 11 points and 6 rebounds off the bench for the Hawks.
The Hawks’ next game will come in the new year with a face off against A-10 conference rival Richmond.
Before Saint Joseph’s even played their first regular season game this year, Hawks star DeAndre Bembry was invited to the Nike Basketball Academy, named to the Preseason All-Atlantic 10 First Team, Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 List, Julius Erving Small Forward Award Watch List, and the Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch list.
None of these accolades are unwarranted as Bembry finished last season averaging 17.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.9 steals and was the Atlantic 10’s leading scorer. But, many deemed the junior a sure thing for the 2016 draft, which might have been a rush to judgement.
Bembry started the season off slow, shooting only 36% from the field and averaging 3 turnovers in his first five games. It’s understandable for players to begin the season not playing at their best, as coaches are still tweaking lineups and experimenting with different schemes. In addition to getting used to games again, it may be tough to follow up the success like Bembry had. But for a player of Bembry’s caliber, this is not a valid excuse, especially against teams he should dominant against.
The North Carolina native scored 23 points in his first game versus Drexel but after that he only averaged about 12 points in his next four games. Saint Joseph’s toughest opponent in these games was Florida, who entered the game on the back of a 102-54 victory over North Carolina A&T. He did not only struggle against a tough Florida team, making only two baskets from the field, but also against Buffalo, when he went 4-11 from the field. Later, against a below .500 team in Old Dominion, he only made three field goals.
More specifically, it took him until the fifth game of the season to make his first three pointer. Last season, he had already made six threes by this point.
Despite his early season shooting slump, Bembry has converted from the charity stripe, where he has shot a career high 71%. His ability to attack the basket and cause opponents to foul him led to 38 free throw attempts within the five games. In addition to that, Bembry filled up the rest of the stat sheet and made up for his lack of scoring by averaging 6.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.6 steals.
One major reason for Bembry’s lack of offensive production has been the emergence of Baltimore native Isaiah Miles. Through eleven games, he has averaged 17.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, which are all career highs for the senior.
However, Bembry’s offensive production has come on as of late, averaging 18.5 points and shooting 49% from the field over his last six games. Though he continues to struggle from behind the arc, shooting a mere career low 23%, he is committed to hitting more threes, attempting 34 3’s since the Old Dominion game. Also, he is beginning to take better care of the ball, which has caused his turnovers per game average to drop from 3 to 1.5.
The aforementioned star has steadily progressed this season after struggling early on, finding different ways to help the Hawks win besides just scoring but if Bembry wants to be the recipient of the preseason awards and play in the NBA he must convert from beyond the arc more often, take care of the ball, and continue to fill the stat sheet.
Photo: Sideline Photos, LLC
The Hawks have had some serious trouble at the end of games this season. In their match against Florida, the score was at one point tied at 62 before the Gators walked with the win, 74-63. Against Temple, the Hawks held on to win 66-65, but that’s all they did – hold on. Some missed free throws and poor defense gave Temple life until the final buzzer sounded in overtime.
Even in their last time out, Saint Joseph’s led Illinois State by as many as 32 with less than 8 minutes to go. However, the Redbirds ended the game on a 23-5 run and lost by only 14. In that game, four of the thirteen turnovers Saint Joseph’s committed were in the last five minutes.
The Hawks even led Drexel in the season opener by as many as twelve with 2:34 remaining. In those final two and a half minutes, the Hawks were just 5-10 from the charity stripe despite shooting 79.3% in the game until then. This season, though, the free throw shooting hasn’t been significantly worse down the stretch in comparison to the rest of the game. The team’s free throw percentage in the first 35 minutes and in the final five minutes (and overtime when necessary) are within a few percentage points of each other. Overall, converting 72% of their foul shots is good enough to rank them 82nd in the country. That would be much improved from last year’s 61.5%, which ranked them 347th out of 351 total teams.
The improvement is definitely positive, but more work still needs to be done. In the first 35 minutes of each game, the Hawks are averaging .486 FT/min. After that time, they are averaging .873 FT/min. Close to double the amount of free throws down the stretch means that it’s imperative to hit foul shots in order to close games. Shooting under 69% at the end of games is quite frankly not good enough.
So who needs to step up?
Well, the guys that are taking those foul shots at the end of games. DeAndre Bembry, who’s in possession of the ball quite often at the end of games, is shooting just 67.9% from the line. He additionally missed two crucial free throws against Temple that almost lost them the game. Sophomore James Demery is also shooting a not so impressive 57% from the stripe this season. And then there’s Shavar Newkirk, who has missed three of his seven misses from the free throw line within the final minute of games.
Closing games is something that the Hawks must learn to do quickly, and that begins with free throws, but doesn’t end there. The defense must be stronger, the shot selection must be smarter, and the offense must take better care of the ball down the stretch as well in order to close out these games. The Atlantic 10 is a good conference with strong teams that will take full advantage of any mistakes made toward the end of a game, including missed opportunities for free points. With conference play on the horizon, resolving this issue must be toward the top of the Hawks’ priority list.
Photo: John Minchillo/AP file
In a Big 5 thriller between St. Joe’s and Temple at the Liacouras Center tonight, Phil Martelli and the Hawks came away victorious in a one point overtime win, 66-65.
St. Joe’s was led by DeAndre Bembry with 17 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Isaiah Miles additionally tallied 12 points and 15 rebounds in 42 minutes. Obi Enechionyia had a game high 25 points and added 13 rebounds for the Owls.
The Hawks will look to build off of this win next Saturday when they take on Illinois State. On the contrary, Fran Dunphy and his Owls will look to get back to their winning ways against Delaware State.
Saint Joseph’s has had a fair share of exceptional guards in years past. Even just recently, names like Darrin Govens, Carl Jones, Garrett Williamson, Delonte West, Langston Galloway and Jameer Nelson have graced the Hawks’ backcourt. It’s a transitional time in Saint Joseph’s basketball, but Coach Martelli may have discovered his next great guard tandem in sophomores Shavar Newkirk and James Demery.
Newkirk showed his full potential in the game against Villanova this season, in which he reached a career high in minutes (31) and a career high in points (13). Newkirk worked a lot on his shot over the offseason, but his scoring ability is not where he finds his pride. Newkirk said before this season, “I expect to really hit open shots, but I’m still going to play my game. My thing is to get in the lane and pass to the big man and get people open shots. This year, I’m really going to play my role like I’m supposed to play my role.”
The young man from New York City additionally collected 9 assists against Villanova without committing a single turnover. While his field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage have all jumped drastically, it’s Newkirk’s ability to run an offense and create shots for his teammates that’s most impressive.
Additionally, Newkirk’s capacity to play under control now is perhaps his most noticeable improvement from last season. Last year, he would often try to run at a thousand miles per hour at all times. This year, he’s been much better at controlling the pace of his game and the speed at which he moves.
Demery is also only getting better by the game. Perhaps the most memorable moment of Demery’s short career so far was against LIU-Brooklyn in his freshman campaign. With three seconds on the clock, Demery hit a game tying three-pointer from the corner and sent the game to overtime, one in which Saint Joseph’s would eventually win.
This season, although just seven games deep, Demery has already shown improvement. He’s averaging double-digit points, but his greatest strengths don’t appear in the box score. His tendency to fire up a crowd and his teammates with and-one scores, hustle plays, and fast breaks is likely his most impressive contribution. Over the offseason, Demery spoke about his goals of being more vocal and taking on more of a leader role. As the sophomore continues to gain experience, it’s easy to see how he’s simultaneously maturing and improving.
Demery’s most central issue had always seemed to be confidence, but it’s easy to see the improvements already made in that department. His shot selection has subsequently been much better this year as he’s been more aggressive in getting to the basket.
With both Newkirk and Demery though, the jump shots need to continue to improve. Newkirk’s shot looks much better than it did in his freshman season, but clearly still needs work. Demery, on the other hand, has not shown any improvement in his shooting. His free throw percentage still floats around 50% and he’s started the season 1-12 from three. Shooting has always been an issue with Demery, but if the problem can be resolved, he’ll become a much more complete player. The Hawks shot below 30% from long range last year and are struggling with the same problem so far this year, so developing two more strong shooters would be beyond beneficial to the team. More so, to continue to just manicure two great guards would be incredibly valuable. It’s a guard’s league today, so the growth and production from Newkirk and Demery is imperative to the future success of Saint Joseph’s basketball.
As the season progresses, it’ll be interesting to watch the growth of Newkirk and Demery. Let’s not also forget freshman Lamarr Kimble, who is also making a strong case to be included in this discussion, and senior guard Aaron Brown, who has gotten off to a solid start this year. However, it seems as though the future of the Hawks’ backcourt will eventually belong to Newkirk and Demery.
With 13 minutes left in the second half, junior DeAndre Bembry nailed a jumper to cut Villanova’s lead to six. The crowd was jumping. The players could feel it. The coaches were smelling it.
And just 20 seconds later, Villanova big man Daniel Ochefu missed a jumper. After a Saint Joseph’s rebound, the Hawks had a chance to cut the lead to as much as three. But freshman Lamarr Kimble missed a jumper and Kris Jenkins finished seconds later with a layup to extend the Wildcat lead to eight. But again, with resiliency, Saint Joseph’s senior Isaiah Miles sinked another bucket to minimize the lead to six.
It was right then and there it seemed like the Hawks might be able to steal the game. With a rocking crowd on their backs and a little run on their side, it seemed like the match would come down to the wire.
3 minutes later it was an eleven point game and Villanova had complete control. The Hawks couldn’t gain any traction after the spurt in the mid part of the second half, as Villanova seized the reigns.
But, it’s not that Saint Joseph’s played bad. The Wildcats were just too good by the end.
Despite the 86-72 loss, the Hawks actually hung around for most the of the game. They showed at times during the game (and in the early part of the season) that they are a scary team that will certainly win a lot of games during the 2015-16 season.
For starters, even though the squad is 4-2, DeAndre Bembry has yet to play his best basketball. He’s been good, but not the All-American Saint Joseph’s faithful were expecting. Although he has yet to score in single digits, Bembry hasn’t been dominant and completely taken over a game. In the opener against Drexel, Bembry scored 23, but feasted more off the free throw line. Since, he hasn’t scored above 20, but has had multiple solid games. Think about how competitive the Hawks have been without Bembry playing his best. When he starts to really find his touch, especially long range, where he is shooting only 12%, Saint Joseph’s is a frightening team.
Isaiah Miles has also emerged as a potential go-to option. Averaging 16.5 points per game and shooting 55% from the field, Miles has proven to cause fits for opposing teams. His ability to step out, hit the jumper, but also play in the post has helped him thrive in his final year. With a tandem of Bembry and Miles, the Hawks have two of the best playmakers in the A-10. They showed that Tuesday night, as the two combined for 31 points on 14-30 shooting against one of the best teams in the country. When both on their game, the team will be hard to slow down.
Another reason that makes the Hawks scary is their depth. The team has proved that they have many players that deserve solid minutes. So far, coach Martelli has played ten players in all six games. Seven of them have averaged double digit minutes. The team also has graduate senior Papa Ndao returning to help add to the depth.
Coach Martelli has used his long bench to his disposal and it has helped the team succeed. It keeps the defense on their toes and additionally keeps his players fresh and ready to play. However, against Villanova, coach Martelli avoided digging too deep in his bench as four of the five starters played at least 30 minutes. This was part of the problem as Villanova chipped away. If the Hawks continue to win, they will have to use their well rounded and deep bench to their benefit.
Specifically, the Hawks have a versatile front with many options. They have players who play more on the perimeter, with Pierfrancesco “Checco” Oliva, Isaiah Miles, and Papa Ndao when he returns. They also have people who can play with their back to the basket, in Javon Baumann, Markell Lodge, Jai Williams, and Miles. Their big men are deep and it will give coach Martelli a load of options to exploit the other team’s weaknesses.
If a team has big men who aren’t mobile, don’t be surprised to see Miles and Checco on the floor. When a team has a skinnier backcourt, the Hawks can throw in Baumann, Lodge, Williams, or even Miles to back them down. The different set of assets in the frontcourt will open up opportunities for the Hawks as the season progresses.
All in all, despite Saint Joseph’s loss to to Villanova, where they were just beat down by a better team, there is a lot to be positive about. The team is going to win their fair share of games and a NCAA tournament bid does not seem far fetched. If they can use their strengths to their advantage, the team is going to make some noise across the country.
Photo: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Villanova (7-0) wins their 7th straight game against Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s (4-2) 86-72, at Hagan Arena. The Wildcats were led in scoring by juniors Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, who both finished the game with 18 points. Senior Ryan Arcidiacono finished with 17 points including multiple big shots.
Saint Joseph’s DeAndre Bembry had 17 points, but it was not enough for the Hawks to complete the upset. Senior Isaiah Miles continued his strong play with 14 points and 5 offensive rebounds. However, they couldn’t stop Villanova as the nationally ranked team shot 50% from the field and 87% from the line.
The Wildcats will next face sixth ranked Oklahoma while Saint Joseph’s travels to Columbia.
-William Derry and Benjamin Simon
-Saint Joesph's loses to #25 Rhode Island in the Semifinal of the A-10 tournament