Bembry, Miles help St. Joe's fend off Saint Louis' upset bid


Bembry, Miles help St. Joe's fend off Saint Louis' upset bid


Shortly after his second thunderous dunk in the final minutes of Saint Joseph’s 77-63 win over Saint Louis on Sunday, Hawks star DeAndre’ Bembry heard the chant coming from the student section at Hagan Arena.

“One More Year! One More Year!”

Bembry is only a junior but he continues to show why he could be an NBA player very soon.

On Sunday against a pesky Saint Louis team, the electric swingman with the killer ’fro matched his season high with 27 points, scoring 19 in the second half to fend off the Billikens’ upset bid (see Instant Replay).

And yes, he did hear the chant. His response to the fans?

“Um, yeah, I do have another year,” he said coyly. “Everybody knows that.”

Whether or not he declares for the draft, the Hawks are still primed for an exciting March with Bembry and senior standout Isaiah Miles in top form. With Sunday’s win, the Hawks improved to a blistering 24-5 overall and 13-3 in the Atlantic 10, good enough for a first-place tie with VCU atop the standings with two games left.

Miles finished with 18 points and, along with Bembry, helped St. Joe’s avoid what could have been a very ugly loss. Saint Louis pulled within three with seven minutes left before St. Joe’s closed the game on a 21-10 run.

“We can’t let any game just slide by,” Bembry said. “We went to Davidson [on Feb. 20] and gave one up there so we already know the feeling. We just want to finish out the season and try to come in first place. You have to win games to come in first place.”

While Miles and Bembry carried the load for St. Joe’s in the second half, other players came through with big plays too, as has been the Hawks’ M.O. all season. One of those players was freshman point guard Lamarr Kimble, who drained a big three-pointer and floater in the final six minutes to give St. Joe’s a little more breathing room as the Billikens pressed.

“I think this year, we’ve got so many pieces rather than last year when most of the games it was, ‘Give it to DeAndre’ and clear out,’” Miles said. “This year we have so many pieces. If two guys aren’t doing good, we’ve got three more guys who can step it up.

“It’s just the atmosphere. We all love each other. I consider all these guys my brothers.”

There’s no questioning the chemistry and talent on this Hawks team but head coach Phil Martelli still knows it can play better. He was especially disappointed with his team’s free throw shooting (19 for 31), turnovers (12) and “taking mental plays off" Sunday.

“That’s a credit to Saint Louis,” Martelli said. “Their young guys were not in awe.”

On paper, it certainly seemed like the Billikens (10-18, 5-11) would have been overmatched. Martelli, of course, knew better. And just in case he didn’t, he got a friendly reminder from his “assistant coach” and grandson Philip, who became one of the faces of March two years ago when he was caught on camera dressing like and mimicking the St. Joe’s head coach.

“My assistant was telling me today before we left, ‘I think you’re gonna be all right but Saint Louis is better than their record,'" Martelli said, glancing over to his grandson, who accompanied him to the postgame press conference. “That’s a 6-year-old telling me how to take care of things with my team.

“I would say this about this group,” he added. “They enjoy playing basketball together. It’s not really like I have to give them a fire-and-brimstone [pep talk].”

Martelli was certainly grateful that a star player like Bembry was able to carry his team to the finish line on a day the Hawks weren’t at their best. Even still, he was a little bit hard on Bembry, who finished with eight rebounds and six assists but also had four turnovers and shot 5 for 10 from the free throw line.

“I thought at the offensive end he was very calm,” Martelli said. “I thought he really competed on the backboard for us. I think his defense should have been better — not distracted but he wasn’t as attentive as he normally is defensively. And you can’t come out of a game with four turnovers.”

Martelli’s grandson/assistant was more pleased with the St. Joe's star. After the press conference, someone next to the 6-year-old told Bembry he turned to her after his second late dunk to say that was a “pro dunk.” Few would argue with that as the junior got ahead of the pack and finished an electrifying reverse that put an exclamation mark on the Hawks’ 20th win in 23 games.

“That was something I’ve never before done in a game,” Bembry said. “I’m not really a flashy guy. But I was just trying something new.”

It’s fair to say that the St. Joe’s fans loved it. And they’d certainly love to see more of it — in March and maybe for one more year after.

Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

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Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Keyontae Johnson saw Florida’s big lead shrink to almost nothing in the final minute. He made sure his teammates didn’t let this one get away from the Gators.

Johnson had a career-high 22 points to lead the Gators to a 70-62 victory over Saint Joseph’s at the Charleston Classic, playing without ejected leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr. on Thursday. Not that it came easily as Florida (3-2) saw its 18-point lead cut to 64-62 in the final minute.

“We just communicated, told everyone to stay together,” Johnson said. “We stayed locked in.”

The focus proved the difference as Florida hit six foul shots down the stretch while Saint Joseph’s missed two shots and committed a pair of turnovers.

“Down the stretch, I thought we showed a tremendous toughness,” Florida coach Mike White said.

The Gators needed it with Blackshear missing almost all of the game. He played three minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls. Then he was thrown out when he was battling underneath and his elbow looked like it hit Saint Joseph’s guard Taylor Funk. Blackshear, who came in averaging 14 points and 12 boards, was called for a flagrant two foul and sent off the court.

Blackshear’s departure seemed to energize the Hawks (2-3), who trailed 43-27 when the Florida star left the court. That’s when St. Joseph’s went on a 29-16 spurt to cut it to three points on Funk’s basket with six minutes left.

But Johnson followed with a basket and Andrew Nembhard made another to extend the lead.

St. Joseph’s had one last charge, slicing things to 64-62 on Ryan Daly’s layup in the final minute. The Hawks had several chances to tighten things, but could not. “We’re not going to go down easy,” Daly said.

Florida will take on Miami here Friday for a spot in the Charleston Classic finals.

The Hawks face Missouri State on Friday.

Johnson also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Nembhard added 16 points.

Florida took control quickly and appeared to make this a runaway as Noah Locke had two 3-pointers and Nembhard also hit one from behind the arc as the Gators went ahead 11-2 less than two minutes in and steadily built its lead.

St. Joseph’s had hit 34 first-half 3s combined its first four games. It made just one of its 14 long-range attempts this time as it fell behind.

Daly led the Hawks with 25 points.

Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

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Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

CONWAY, S.C. -- It’s been awhile since No. 17 Villanova shot this well from long range. Cole Swider has never scored like this.

Swider scored a career-high 26 points with six 3-pointers, and the Wildcats routed Middle Tennessee 98-69 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

Collin Gillespie added 16 points and hit four 3s, Justin Moore finished with 15 points and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 11 rebounds to help Villanova (3-1) - which never trailed, led by 35 and shot 57% while winning its second straight following a 25-point loss at No. 10 Ohio State.

And yet, another number in the box score caught coach Jay Wright’s eye - Swider’s seven rebounds.

“He’s more than just a shooter,” Wright said.

And the Wildcats have plenty of those. They made 18 3s - one shy of the school record, and their most since they also had 18 in a victory over Kansas at the 2018 Final Four.

“They have elite size with great shooters,” Middle Tennessee coach Nick McDevitt said, “and any short close-out or decent close-out results in three points.”

Eleven of them came during a first-half barrage that pushed the lead well into the 20s. Swider hit his fifth 3 from the corner shortly before the buzzer to put the Wildcats up 53-28 at halftime.

Saddiq Bey then took the lead to 30 with a 3-pointer two minutes into the second half.

Donovan Sims scored 18 points and C.J. Jones had 16 for the Blue Raiders (3-2). Leading scorer Antonio Green, averaging 23.5 points going into the game, finished with four points on 1-of-7 shooting while dealing with foul trouble.

“They’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts, so they were switching just to never let him see space,” McDevitt said.