St. Joseph’s Game Preview and Q&A

Posted In News - By Alan Kelly On Friday, February 6th, 2015 With 0 Comments


Tomorrow afternoon at 4pm, the Patriots (7-14, 2-7 A10) return to the court in Philadelphia for their lone meeting of the season with the St. Joseph’s Hawks (9-12, 3-6 A10). The Hawks are coming off a tight 68-61 overtime loss at St. Louis on Tuesday, while George Mason seeks to shake off the sting of their late loss to VCU in Fairfax on Wednesday. The game will be televised on MASN and streamed for free on the Atlantic 10 Digital Network.

Losers of seven out of eight games, Paul Hewitt’s squad needs a win in the worst way. The return of Patrick Holloway should help, as the junior provided an early spark off the bench Wednesday night after missing the past three games with an illness. But if the Patriots want to maximize their limited perimeter scoring ability, they need to make better use of their size advantages inside. Shevon Thompson was limited to a season-low four field goal attempts against VCU. That can’t happen again. The Hawks have three players 6’8″ or taller, but only sophomore Javon Baumann plays significant minutes, and the 6’11” Thompson has three inches on him.

For the home team, 6’6″ sophomore forward DeAndre Bembry leads the Hawks in pretty much every category, with 17.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in over 38 minutes per game (all tops on the team), while shooting 45.2% from the floor, including 37% from behind the arc. The Hawks have two other double-figure scorers in juniors Aaron Brown and Isaiah Miles on a roster that normally runs seven deep.

St. Joseph’s is 3-1 at Hagan Arena in conference play this season, with their lone loss coming to GW on January 3, but they’ve gone 0-5 on the road thus far.

This morning, I asked James Hill (@jrhill17), staff writer at philahoops.com, to answer some questions about the Hawks, and especially DeAndre Bembry.

masonhoops.com: Last season’s A10 Co-Rookie of the Year, sophomore DeAndre Bembry, has been Mr. Everything for the Hawks this season. What can you tell us about his game?

James: Bembry has been incredible this year, especially since the calendar flipped to 2015. There really are no holes in his game. Some of his stat lines during conference play have just left people shaking their heads in disbelief. Against UMass, he had 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals, and three blocks; and against Davidson, he had 21 points, 17 rebounds, and seven assists against only one turnover. He can get to the rim at will, lock down opposing guards on the defensive end, be the primary ballhandler, and, after a slow start with a new shooting stroke, he’s starting to fill it up from deep too.

There’s really not enough you can say about the year this kid is having. He’s leading St. Joe’s in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli has said a number of times that if the team were winning more, Bembry would be in the mix for an All America team. I agree. He’s carried this team.

masonhoops.com: St. Joseph’s lost three terrific seniors from a season ago in Ronald Roberts, Langston Galloway, and Halil Kanacevic. Aside from Bembry, who has replaced that production, and how has the transition gone?

James: That production really hasn’t been replaced, at least not on the offensive end. The team is scoring a full 10 points per game less than it did a year ago and some nights struggles just to hit 50 points. It was nice having four guys – those three you mentioned plus Bembry – who were able to go off for 20 points on any given night. Those guys also ate up so many minutes, each averaging more than 32 per game, that there were very few minutes to go around for young guys like Javon Baumann to gain experience.

Martelli has tried a lot of things this year to manufacture points, using unconventional lineups, employing a variety of full court presses, and taking advantage of any transition opportunities. The transition hasn’t exactly been smooth, but when you’re going to from a steady, reliable, senior-laden lineup to the current one, it’s tough to avoid a drop in production.

masonhoops.com: What are the main strengths and weaknesses of this year’s team?

James: St. Joe’s is extremely athletic and will look to turn every game into a track meet. The Hawks love to go to a lineup where the 6’5 Aaron Brown plays power forward and the 6’7 Isaiah Miles plays center just because of the transition opportunities the lineup creates and the strain it puts on an opposing defense.

The Hawks are also pretty good on the defensive end, surrendering only 64 points per game – which is a good thing, because their offense has been a weak point all season. The Hawks’ scoring average is outside the top 300 nationally at just shy of 62 points per game, and five-minute scoring droughts are not exactly uncommon. They simply don’t make a high percentage of shots.

The lack of a true spot-up three-point shooter hurts. Just having a guy, like Langston Galloway last season, who commands a constant presence around the arc forces a defense out of the lane. The Hawks have a lot of slasher-type guys, but if Isaiah Miles, DeAndre Bembry, and Chris Wilson are cold from outside, those driving lanes are cut off. Senior Papa Ndao could have been that spot-up shooter for St. Joe’s, as he hit 41 percent last year. But he was ruled out for the season with a medical condition just weeks before the season opener.

masonhoops.com: Looking at St. Joe’s wins and losses so far this season, I’m confused. The Hawks have three wins over top 60 RPI teams Temple, UMass, and Davidson, but also five losses to teams below 200. What do Phil Martelli’s boys need to do better to achieve consistency?

James: I think the inconsistency can simply be attributed to the youth and inexperience. The Hawks have talent, and when they play well they can hang with and beat anyone in the league. But they’re going through growing pains. Of their typical seven man rotation, two are freshman, one’s a sophomore who got no time last year, and one’s a junior who sat out all of last year under transfer restrictions. Even Isaiah Miles, who was last year’s eighth man, saw his playing time decrease steadily down the stretch last year. Everybody has had to take on a much more expanded role this season than they did a year ago, and that hasn’t been without its bumps and bruises along the way.

masonhoops.com: Their last six games in A10 play have all been close, with three home wins and three road losses. Is the better play of late a flash in the pan, or can the Hawks contend in Brooklyn next month?

James: I think it’s more than a flash in the pan, mostly because I think the roster is talented. The team is gaining experience with every game. The problem is, as I said in the previous question, the team is just inexperienced. I think the Hawks are capable of making noise in Brooklyn, but I wouldn’t bet the house on them being able to do it three or four nights in a row to really make a run.

A lot depends on the support DeAndre Bembry gets. You know what you’re getting from him night in and night out. But games like the horrible loss to UPenn do happen, where Bembry scores 25 but the rest of the team only combines for 27 in a four-point loss. One positive trend of late has been the play of Aaron Brown. Since being inserted into the starting lineup two games ago, he’s scored 20 against Davidson and 21 against St. Louis – both career highs. Obviously it’d be foolish to count on 20 points per night from him the rest of the way, but if the Hawks can get good outputs from Bembry and Brown, and have a third person – like Miles, Wilson, or freshman James Demery step up – I think they can be competitive. The problem, again, is the inconsistency.

masonhoops.com: Thank you for your time, James.

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About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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