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March 12, 2015

Bembry struggles as Saint Joe’s sees season end

A year after making The Big Dance, the Hawks finish the season with a 13-18 record

Phil Martelli isn’t exactly George Gipp when it comes to inspirational quotes, but with his team up 28-23 at halftime, his on-court interview produced a nice one. “It’s either step up, or we collect uniforms tomorrow morning,” the Saint Joseph’s head coach said.

It’s a good line. You could even put in on T-shirts if you were so inclined. For the Hawks on this night, it didn’t work, though. Saint Bonaventure’s defense clamped down in the second half and they defeated Saint Joe’s 60-49 in second round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Martelli will indeed be collecting uniforms tomorrow.

One year removed from winning the conference tournament and losing three very important seniors (Langston Galloway, Ronald Roberts, Jr., Halil Kanacevic) to graduation, I’m sure Martelli knew this would be somewhat of a transition year. Saint Joe’s finished the season at 13-18 overall and 7-11 in the Atlantic 10.

The good news for Saint Joe’s is that they have a lot of players returning for next season. Of their eight-man rotation in tonight’s game, point guard Chris Wilson was the lone senior. The rest of it was made up of three freshman, two sophomores, and three juniors. The Hawks are going to be a better basketball team next season if everyone returns.

DeAndre’ Bembry is the primary reason for that. The 6-foot-6 swingman was a first-team all-conference selection as a sophomore and will likely be the frontrunner for both Big Five and Atlantic 10 player of the year as a junior. His two-way play is as all-encompassing as his hair.

I can’t imagine Martelli having another losing season with Bembry in the fold, but his star struggled against the Bonnies on Thursday night, particularly thanks to the defense of Andell “Sherlock” Cumberbatch. Bembry only managed 12 points on 3-14 shooting, and he wasn’t able to create many easy looks at the hoop. He did chip in with six rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Armed with another offseason to refine his superb all-around game, Bembry will become even more of a monster on Hawk Hill in 2014-15. The question for Martelli will be if he can find other players that can consistently put the ball in the hole. It was fitting that Saint Joe’s bowed out of the A-10 Tournament on a night they could only manage 49 points. A year after finishing 57th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency, the Hawks were 254th nationally. That’s not nearly good enough.

Isaiah Miles is big man that can knock down 3-pointers, and his goal should be to improve inside the arc for next season. He played very well against the Bonnies, scoring a game-high 19 points on 11 shots. Athletic freshman James Demery (eight points) also had some nice moments. Along with fellow newcomer Shavar Newkirk, he needs to put up a ton of jump shots this summer.

For now, the Hawks’ transition year is over. Martelli has to look ahead to when he hands out the uniforms again.