The problem with the NCAA Tournament, sometimes, is we too often remember only the final moments. The incredible buzzer-beaters. The crazy meltdowns. The celebrations and the tears. (And also stuff that doesn’t involve Northern Iowa over the last four days).
So when Saint Joseph’s ride came to a gut-wrenching end Sunday in Spokane, it will be the late turnovers that sealed Oregon’s 69-64 win over the upset-minded Hawks that many people will likely remember for years to come.
And that’s a shame because, despite the tough loss, this very likable St. Joe’s team won March Madness in so many ways. Let’s count them:
1. A star is born noticed
Every hoops fan in Philly may know about DeAndre’ Bembry and his ‘fro but it quickly became apparent that not everyone in the country does, especially when analyst Doug Gottlieb referred to him as the “best player you’ve never heard of.” It was nice to see, then, that the junior swingman was able to shine on the national stage, scoring 23 in the Hawks’ first-round win over Cincinnati and going for 16 points and 12 rebounds vs. Oregon -- this after his 30-point monster game in the Hawks’ Atlantic 10 title-game triumph. He even showed what kind of leader he is for taking the blame for the loss to the top-seeded Ducks because of a late turnover before expressing gratitude and appreciation for the ride. He will be missed on Hawk Hill if he decides to turn pro.
Smh I wish it could have ended with a win but it didn't. I love these guys and this University so much!! THWND
— Deandre Bembry (@ColderThan_Fire) March 21, 2016
2. A perfect game-winning shot
The Hawks couldn’t have drawn this one up any better. Trailing by one to Cincy in the opening-round 8-9 game, head coach Phil Martelli called a brilliant play out of a timeout to get Isaiah Miles open for a three-pointer that the senior drained. Miles said afterwards that it was the first game-winner he ever hit at any level even though he had been dreaming about it all his life. And it was fitting end to a remarkable senior season in which Miles turned into a bona fide star following three mostly pedestrian seasons.
St. Joe's Isaiah Miles with the game winning three to give the Hawks a 78-76 win over Cincy ... https://t.co/4S9xHEiwmk
— Chip Miller (@BLUEChip_Miller) March 19, 2016
3. Martelli’s got jokes
When he wasn’t thinking up great plays, Martelli was thinking up interesting responses to reporter’s questions (or their posture). After comparing Cincinnati’s defenders to bouncers at a club, the Hawks’ coach had a little fun with a writer that was, um, too relaxed at the postgame press conference following the win. “You need like a cushion or anything” is definitely going to be the name of my NCAA Tournament bracket next year.
And then there's this exchange between Martelli and a writer in Spokane tonight: pic.twitter.com/UEcU9yKYH4
— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) March 19, 2016
4. “Fresh Kimble” shows the future is bright
His real name is Lamarr but everyone calls him “Fresh.” He certainly helped the Hawks look fresh Sunday night with some clutch shots and great drives in the second half while some of the veterans battled foul trouble. The point guard finished with 11 points off the bench against the Ducks but my favorite moment came when he -- a freshman -- was doing his best to console Bembry coming off the court. That shouldn’t come as much a surprise as he clearly loves the guy. And if Bembry leaves, perhaps he’ll take his mantle as the next St. Joe’s star.
Fresh Kimble yelling 'Best player in the nation' as DeAndre Bembry is interviewed on national television.
— hawkhillhardwood (@HHHardwood) March 13, 2016
5. Aaron Brown’s last hurrah
Other players came through with some big March moments for the Hawks but it’s hard not to specifically highlight Aaron Brown, who scored in double figures in both NCAA Tournament games. The senior has been through a lot and actually played in the Big Dance back in 2012 while at West Virginia. But that must seem like a lifetime ago. So it was cool to see him bookend his college career with another trip to the NCAA Tournament -- and an impressive one at that.
Aaron Brown walks back to the St. Joe's huddle like a fighter going to his corner after a good round.
— Mike Jensen (@jensenoffcampus) March 19, 2016
6. The walk-ons got moves
Do not try these dance moves at home:
— Dan McQuade (@dhm) March 19, 2016
7. The return of little Phil
He’s no longer wearing a custom suit, holding a clipboard and mimicking the coach like he did two years ago but Martelli’s cute grandson was stealing camera time again this March -- this time decked out in a full uniform.
— Dave Zeitlin (@DaveZeitlin) March 19, 2016
8. The alums were all in
Even the ones that are now in the NBA.
What a win @SJUHawks_MBB let's go. Oregon we coming for you....
— Lang Galloway (@LangGalloway10) March 19, 2016
9. The Hawk loses his head
Props, as always, to the Hawk. It’s alway fun hearing people marvel (or mock) how it flaps its wings the entire game, especially this time of year. Turns out, there’s a real person inside there too.
The hawk may never die, but he will take off his head in front of children pic.twitter.com/RGA4FP8Bc7
— Drew Davis (@drewdavis71) March 19, 2016
10. Underdog spirit
It may get overlooked since Oregon isn’t a traditional power but it’s important to keep in mind that a St. Joe’s team that had little to no expectations before the season began not only won the A-10 Tournament and a game in the Big Dance (its 28th of the season) but also went toe-to-toe with a No. 1 seed. And they did so after flying across the entire damn country. And with no true big man. And with their own city probably focusing more on Villanova and Temple than them. This is a team that needs to be remembered for a very long time -- and not just for how the season ended.
Bembry with the sweet 180 dunk! #MarchMadness https://t.co/X9o28RC4Lg
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 21, 2016