DeAndre Bembry (above) had 27 points and 10 rebounds against Princeton. (Tom Riefsnyder/CoBL)
Stephen Pianovich (@SPianovich)
In a late possession of an ugly offensive game, teammates missed DeAndre' Bembry wide open under the basket. So, St. Joseph’s star swingman kept moving and yelling until he got the ball and hit a jumper in the paint as the shot clock ran down.
For the first time this season, Bembry didn’t just want the ball. He needed it.
And in a game where multiple Hawks didn’t have it offensively, the team needed Bembry and his 27 points in a 62-50 victory against Princeton on Tuesday night at Hagan Arena.
“Normally I’m not the person to be yelling for the ball, but I was like ‘Yo, I need the ball.’ ” Bembry said of hit late jumper, which came with 65 seconds remaining and put St. Joe’s up by nine. “We missed like two or three shots in a row, so I kept screaming and they swung it around, but I had to run and go get it. (The shot clock) got down to like two seconds, but I got a good shot off.”
The junior forward had a double-double with 10 rebounds and added four steals and three assists. He proved on multiple occasions he was the best player on the floor, and his 11 made field goals accounted for half of the Hawks’ makes from the floor.
As a team, St. Joe’s had a rough offensive night. The 62 points were a season-low for the Hawks as was their 38.6 shooting percentage.
The story early in the season for Phil Martelli’s team had been that they were able to share the load offensively through a handful of contributors. That certainly did not ring true against Princeton.
“We had four guys score in the first half and we had five guys score in the game,” Martelli said. “That has not been our MO. We’ve played free and easy. I’m not calling guys out in public, but we had a couple guys off their game, so we had to come back.”
As the coach noted, just five St. Joe’s players put the ball through the hoop Tuesday. Isaiah Miles, the team’s leading scorer entering the game, had 13 points and James Demery also hit double digits with 12 points.
The trio of Bembry, Miles and Demery combined for 52 of the Hawks’ 62 points and shot 20-for-35 (57.1 percent). The other six St. Joe’s players totaled 10 points – split evenly between Papa Ndao and Lamarr Kimble – and went 2-for-22 from the floor (9.1 percent).
Unsurprisingly, Bembry, Miles and Demery were the top three players in minutes for St. Joe’s, and Bembry played a full 40. Giving Bembry a heavy dosage of shots and a full game isn’t something Martelli would like to do if he can avoid it, but it’s something Bembry knows well. He did it often last season as the Hawks finished 13-18.
“I had to do it all last year. It’s not really nothing new to me or nothing I’m uncomfortable with,” Bembry said. “I’m very comfortable with taking as many shots as I need to. …At the end of the game, I feel like I needed the ball in my hands.”
The 6-foot-6 Charlotte pointed out that last season St. Joe’s was often losing those games and was happy to leave the court with a win on Tuesday. The Hawks also got there by limiting Princeton to a 28.8 shooting percentage, and the Tigers hit just three of their 16 3-point attempts after halftime.
Martelli credited a good scouting report to limiting the Tigers – who were led by Steven Cook’s 15 points – but also knew it would have been a different story if the opponent hit a few more jumpers.
“I don’t think anyone comes out of here smelling like a rose,” Martelli said. “But you take the win and say you got to be better.”