VIDEO: Saint Joseph’s erases 16-point deficit, beats George Washington

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Friday’s Atlantic 10 quarterfinal matchup between No. 4 seed Saint Joseph’s and No. 5 seed George Washington was an important one for both teams, with the Hawks looking to sew up an NCAA tournament bid and the Colonials having work to do to get into the conversation. Mike Lonergan’s team led by as many as 16 points and appeared well on their way to an important résumé-boosting victory.

However DeAndre Bembry and the Hawks turned things around, rallying back for an 86-80 win over the Colonials. As a result Saint Joseph’s will play top seed Dayton in Saturday’s semifinals, and George Washington in all likelihood is now headed to the Postseason NIT.

Saint Joseph’s outscored George Washington 51-31 in the second half, with Bembry finishing the game with 21 points, Shavar Newkirk 19 and three other Hawks scoring in double figures as well. Joe McDonald led six Colonials in double figures with 15 points, and Kevin Larsen just missed out on a triple-double as he accounted for ten points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

VIDEO: Davidson drops Saint Joseph’s out of first place in Atlantic 10

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With No. 15 Dayton and Saint Joseph’s both losing Saturday afternoon, VCU has reclaimed sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10.

Saint Joseph’s suffered a 99-93 loss at Davidson, falling short down the stretch after navigating first-half foul trouble for start wing DeAndré Bembry. Bembry scored just two points in the first half as a result of two fouls committed less than eight minutes into the period, but thanks to Isaiah Miles the Hawks still managed to take a 48-43 halftime lead. Miles, who’s been one of the nation’s most improved players, scored 32 points on the afternoon.

But it wasn’t enough, as Davidson’s Jack Gibbs led all scorers with 35 points. Gibbs got going at around the same time that Bembry made his way to the bench, and from that point forward Saint Joseph’s had a hard time slowing him down. Gibbs shot 11-for-18 from the field and 8-for-9 from the foul line, with Nathan Ekwu adding 18 points and eight rebounds for Bob McKillop’s Wildcats.

Davidson won this game at the foul line, where they shot 29-for-38 and outscored Saint Joseph’s by 19 points. The Hawks shot better than 56 percent from the field, making 36 field goals to Davidson’s 30, but getting outscored from the foul line by as large of a margin as they did proved to be the one thing Saint Joseph’s could not overcome.

Saint Joseph’s ends No. 15 Dayton’s nine-game win streak

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Entering Wednesday the Saint Joseph’s Hawks had an impressive record of 21-4, but they lacked the “signature” victory that the NCAA tournament selection committee tends to look for in its deliberations. That changed at Hagan Arena, as Phil Martelli’s Hawks beat No. 15 Dayton by the final score of 79-70. Saint Joseph’s did get the win their résumé lacked, but in beating the Flyers they also ended Dayton’s nine-game win streak and tightened the Atlantic 10 race considerably.

As a result of the Hawks’ win they’re now tied with Dayton atop the A-10 standings, with VCU also boasting an 11-2 league record and St. Bonaventure a game back in the loss column.

SJU has a headliner in junior wing DeAndré Bembry, a versatile player who’s developed into one of the Atlantic 10’s best players during his time on Hawk Hill. But unlike last season, when the supporting cast was inconsistent and often left Bembry carrying much of the load on his own, Martelli’s received contributions from a host of players in the rotation.

Wednesday night five Hawks scored in double figures, led by Bembry with 16 points and 13 rebounds and Aaron Brown with 14 points. And Bembry wasn’t the only Hawk to post a double-double, as Isaiah Miles added 12 points and 12 rebounds to go along with a team-high five assists. Miles, who averaged 10.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game a season ago, has been one of the most improved players in college basketball.

Entering Wednesday, Miles was leading Saint Joseph’s in both scoring (17.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg) while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from three. Miles’ progression from last season to this has changed the equation, not only for Saint Joseph’s but also for the opponents faced with the task of slowing him down.

Miles is only 6-foot-7 but the Hawks use him at the five, taking advantage of his ability to face up defenders and step out to the three-point line. Miles missed all seven of his three-point attempts against Dayton, but the mere threat of him being able to hit that shot is something defenses have to account for.

But even bigger than Saint Joseph’s offensive versatility on this night was their defense, as they limited Dayton to 41 percent shooting and 8-for-31 from beyond the arc. On the season Dayton, while a good three-point shooting team, scores just over 28 percent of its points from three. Against the Hawks they settled for those looks too often, and some credit should be given to the defense for that.

Dayton, which is still without injured forward Kendall Pollard, will be fine moving forward and could end up winning the A-10 anyway. But this result was about Saint Joseph’s, a team that has looked the part of an NCAA tournament team for much of this season but lacked that “signature” win to back it up. Wednesday night, the Hawks took care of that issue.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: No. 20 Duke visits No. 5 North Carolina

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 20 Duke at No. 5 North Carolina, 9:00 p.m.

This choice is a simple one, with one of the best rivalries in all of sports taking place. Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils have won four straight games, with their defensive improvements being a key reason why (our Rob Dauster has more on that here). Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram have led the way offensively for Duke, but getting stops will be key for them not just tonight but in March as well. How well Duke fares on the defensive glass against the bigger Tar Heels will be a key, but UNC has its own questions to address.

The biggest: how engaged will Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson be? Johnson made his way into the ACC POY conversation and Jackson saved the Heels at Boston College, but both have to bring consistent effort for Roy Williams’ team to reach its full potential. North Carolina played well in its win over Pittsburgh Sunday, but can they build on that momentum?

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 15 Dayton at Saint Joseph’s, 6:00 p.m.

There are two big games in Philadelphia tonight (more on the other one below), and this one will have a major impact not only on the Atlantic 10 race but on NCAA tournament profiles as well. Archie Miller’s Flyers are well positioned to land a good seed next month, and a win here would keep Dayton (who’s won nine straight) alone atop the A-10 standings. Dyshawn Pierre’s return has been key, but the contributions of Charles Cooke III and Scoochie Smith should not be overlooked either. Saint Joseph’s will counter with the incredibly versatile DeAndre Bembry and the A-10’s most improved player in forward Isaiah Miles, who’s been a key option in the front court for Phil Martelli’s Hawks.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1. No. 1 Villanova will step outside of Big East play as they visit Big 5 rival Temple (7:00 p.m.) in a critical game for the home team. Fran Dunphy’s Owls sit atop the American, and a win here would (barring a collapse) in all likelihood sew up an NCAA tournament bid. Villanova, on the other hand, is once again in the mix for a one-seed and can wrap up the outright Big 5 title with a win.

2. Unless Villanova falters down the stretch, No. 8 Xavier is the only team capable of chasing down the Wildcats in the Big East standings. The Musketeers, two games back, will need to avoid any losses if they’re to accomplish that beginning with their game against No. 23 Providence tonight (7:00 p.m.). The Friars lean upon the tandem of Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, but they’ll need more against the deeper Musketeers.

3. One team that may not be receiving as much “bubble” chatter as they deserve is Alabama, which has won four straight including wins over Texas A&M and Florida. The Crimson Tide visit LSU tonight (9:00 p.m.), with both teams in a position where another quality win would help their cause. LSU won the first meeting by two points in Tuscaloosa, with Ben Simmons going for 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

4. After getting swept last weekend USC looks to get back on the right track with a win over Colorado (11:00 p.m.) in Los Angeles. Andy Enfield’s Trojans have yet to lose at home this season, and their offensive balance (six players averaging double figures) is one reason why. Colorado, which is also well positioned to reach the NCAA tournament, did not have Josh Scott (ankle) last week and his status for tonight has yet to be determined. That’s a key for the Buffs, given how good USC’s front court with the likes of Nikola Jovanovic, Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu has been this year.

5. Texas Tech, which beat two ranked teams in Iowa State and Baylor last week, has another opportunity to get a marquee win as they host No. 3 Oklahoma. Keenan Evans is averaging more than 17 points per game over the last three for Tubby Smith’s Red Raiders, who can also call upon Devauntagh Williams and Toddrick Gotcher on the perimeter. Buddy Hield and company are looking to rebound from their loss to No. 2 Kansas, but that won’t be easy to do in Lubbock.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 4 Iowa at Penn State, 6:30 p.m.
  • Virginia Tech at No. 11 Miami, 9:00 p.m.
  • Arizona State at No. 12 Arizona, 9:00 p.m.
  • Syracuse at No. 18 Louisville, 7:00 p.m.
  • Nebraska at No. 22 Indiana, 8:30 p.m.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Stony Brook at Albany, 7:00 p.m.
  • George Washington at Duquesne, 7:00 p.m.
  • Seton Hall at Georgetown, 9:00 p.m.
  • Boise State at New Mexico, 10:00 p.m.

VIDEO: Bembry, Brown lead Saint Joseph’s past Rhode Island

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The first game of NBC Sports Network’s Atlantic 10 triple-header matched two teams with aspirations of contending for the conference title in Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s. At Hagan Arena it was the host Hawks who moved to 2-1 in conference play, with DeAndre Bembry and Aaron Brown leading the way offensively in the 72-67 victory.

Bembry played all 40 minutes for Phil Martelli’s team, finishing with a game-high 22 points along with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Senior Aaron Brown added 19 points, shooting 4-for-4 from beyond the arc, and classmate Isaiah Miles scored ten points for the 12-3 Hawks.

Hassan Martin led three Rams in double figures with 20 points to go along with eight rebounds, but URI’s 16 turnovers were converted into 21 points by Saint Joseph’s.