Last year, it was La Salle that was able to take advantage of a largely disorganized St. Joseph’s team, beating the Hawks 76-64 at the Palestra. This year, at Tom Gola Arena, St. Joseph’s built an early lead that they would not relinquish thanks to even scoring, flipping the script to win 75-64.
Langston Galloway would lead the way with 18 points for the Hawks, with DeAndre Bembry finishing with 16 points, all coming in the second half. There were five Hawks in double figures as Ron Roberts notched 15 and the duo of Halil Kanacevic and Chris Wilson put in 10 a piece.
“Seniors. Seniors,” coach Phil Martelli said about his upperclassmen’s play in the first half. “At halftime, the seniors are taking us here. “I whispered in DeAndre’s ear that he had to go to work.”
The freshman, who has already had his share of outstanding moments for the Hawks, would score 16 points in the second half, also grabbing five rebounds and three steals. Bembry did his damage both from the outside and from within, while guarding Explorers point guard Tyreek Duren.
La Salle led 8-4 in the early going, with Duren being responsible for all of those buckets. The advantage would be short-lived, as St. Joseph’s would go on a 12-0 run that put the Hawks decisively in front. When Jerrell Wright picked up his second foul less than five minutes into the game, La Salle was forced to go small, a decision that limited their abilities on both sides of the court. Duren was able to shoulder much of the scoring load, finishing with 12 points in the first 20 minutes. Still, the Hawks proved to be too much offensively with three players scoring nine or more points. St. Joe’s would go into the locker room leading 36-26.
“After the initial flurry, I thought he guarded,” Martelli said of Bembry’s effort on Duren. “DeAndre has a knack for challenging shots. I was proud of his response in the second half. I like the fact that he attacked.”
He is an old-head. That is the greatest compliment in Philadelphia. He has an old mind for the game. ~Phil Martelli on DeAndre Bembry
Much of Joe’s success in the first half was due to their excellent percentage from the field as the Hawks shot 53.6-percent and 40-percent from deep. This, when compared the La Salle shooting 33-percent from the field and from behind the arc, is the reason for the 10-point advantage at halftime. Roberts led the way with 12 points in the first half, with Galloway and Kanacevic adding 10 and nine, respectively.
Giannini made a concerted effort to get the ball to Wright in the second half, as the senior would score five straight at one point. St. Joseph’s was able to push the lead to as many as 16, but a Wright layup followed by back-to-back triples from Taylor Dunn and Tyrone Garland would get the lead back to eight. Bembry, who was held scoreless in the first half, picked the Hawks up with a run in the second half that included two “and-one” plays.
“We weren’t as crisp offensively as I would have wanted and we have to get more creative,” the Hawks’ coach said. “We spent a lot of time on offense this week.”
For the rest of the second half, La Salle battled to get the game back to single digits. While they were able to get the lead down to six, thanks to some excellent shooting late, the Hawks early lead was just too much to overcome.
“We’re not playing the way we practice, which is really strange,” Explorer coach John Giannini said of his team’s play. “We did a great job not helping off of Galloway, but all five guys were not helping off the ball. How that happened, I don’t know.”
Wright would lead the Explorers with 16 points with Duren and Garland each adding 15 points. The Explorers out-rebounded the Hawks 40-29, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds in the process.
1000 for Wright: With his eighth point tonight, Jerrell Wright scored 1000 for his career. The junior is the 53rd Explorer to hit this mark.
It really isn’t that big to me. If we would have won, I would have thought about it more. Now, I am just worried about the game. ~ Jerrell Wright on 1000 points
Going Forward: St. Joseph’s is in the midst of a nice stretch, beating a ranked UMASS team, a near-ranked VCU team, and taking #13-ranked Saint Louis down to the wire. La Salle, on the other hand, has been on the wrong side of some close ones, taking VCU to double-overtime, losing to the Billikens at the buzzer, while also being dismantled by St. Bonaventure, George Washington and UMASS. This win puts the Hawks amongst the elite in the Atlantic 10, while the Explorers have still yet to find that spark with the conference tournament looming.
“It is a road win. We did a lot of things this week to prepare,” Martelli said about his team up until that point. They were in the video room at 8:15 today and we got here in enough time to get some extra shots off. I think the world of these players as human beings and I’m glad they’re having success. Our fate is going to be decided by how we play on the road.”
Big Five Matchup: This game will not be recorded in the Big Five record books as the March 9th matchup at Hagan Arena will be the one that counts in the inner-city series. That game will be the regular season finale for both teams.