By JAMES HILL
On a horrible night for the Hawk offense, Saint Joseph’s captains Chris Wilson and DeAndre Bembry thought they had a chance to steal a win following back-to-back three-pointers with under 90 seconds to play. Then Mustafaa Jones struck.
The Neumann Goretti product buried a heavily-guarded three pointer from the wing with 3.3 seconds left to lift Fairleigh Dickinson to a 58-57 win in the season opener.
“I should have fouled him before he got the shot off,” Bembry, who marked Jones on the play, admitted after the fact. “We had another foul to give. But he made a tough shot over me.
“He made the shot.”
The Hawks were marred by poor play on both ends of the floor the entire night. The team shot 40 percent from the floor on the night, but that figure was brought up significantly by a flurry of transition lay-ups in the second half. St. Joe’s shot only 5-for-20 from range.
Bembry struggled mightily throughout the game. He buried a long jumper with his toes on the line to open the scoring on the first possession of the game, but did not find the bottom of the net again until the 12:47 mark of the second half. The sophomore, tabbed as a preseason first team All-Atlantic 10 player, scored only eight points on 3-for-10 shooting.
“I think DeAndre has a lot of responsibility, and he will be the first to admit that he needs to do more,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said after the game. “Some of it is mental. He made mental mistakes you don’t normally see from a player of his intellect or his ability.”
To make matters worse, St. Joe’s failed to get the defensive stops when they needed them most. Fairleigh Dickinson scored points on each of its last nine possessions of the game, spanning the last 6:34 of the game.
“I think we played ourselves into that position,” Wilson said. “I would have liked for us to not have been in that position in the first place. The last four or five minutes of the game, I can’t remember us getting more than one or two stops. You’re not going to beat a lot of teams like that.”
On the other end, St. Joe’s never got comfortable, settling for too many jumpers against the Knights’ 2-3 zone defense. The Hawks turned the ball over 16 times.
“I think the turnovers against the zone were inexplicable,” Martelli said. “We threw the ball to them on a couple different occasions against zone. I think the ball moved.
“For the most part, I think our shot selection was decent. But our shot commitment wasn’t great. When you’re shooting and you don’t think it’s going in, then I say don’t shoot that.”
The lone bright spot on the night was the Hawks’ play on the glass. St. Joe’s outrebounded their smaller opponent by a margin of 44-28. Sophomore Javon Baumann made the most of his 19 minutes, snaring eight rebounds and blocking three shots to go along with his five points.
Isaiah Miles excelled in a new role as well. The Hawks debuted a pint-sized lineup that featured the junior as the center. He responded with a 12-point, 14-rebound performance for his first career double-double. Though his shooting was not on point – he finished 5-for-14 on the night – he corralled eight of his rebounds on the offensive glass, giving himself a couple easy stick-backs.
“It’s a huge focus for me to get on the glass,” Miles said. “I can shoot, but I have to bring more to the team for us to win. Going to the glass is a big contribution that I need to do to win more games.”
Miles and Wilson each scored 12 to lead the Hawks. Aaron Brown scored nine in his St. Joe’s debut, all in a four minute stretch late in the second half. That spark he provided just wasn’t enough on an off-night for St. Joe’s.
“The mental errors are what did us in,” said Martelli. “Pick any number of mental errors. I just said to the players, ‘The man in the mirror tells you here.’”
The Hawks only have the weekend to put the loss behind them, as they travel to Drexel for the Dragons’ home opener Monday night.
Postgame Press Conference: Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli
James Hill covers Saint Joseph’s basketball for Philahoops. Find him on Twitter @jrhill17 or leave a comment below.