Hawks drop season opener to FDU

Philadelphia native Mustafaa Jones hit a step-back three-pointer with just 4 seconds left to give Fairleigh-Dickinson a 58-57 win over St. Joe's at Hagan Arena on Friday night. It was a night that began with last year's Atlantic 10 Champions banner being hoisted from the rafters and ended with a heart-breaking last-second defeat. A full recap is inside.

Last year's Atlantic 10 champions, St. Joe's, took the court Friday night at Hagan Arena looking much different from a year ago. There was no Langston Galloway. There was no Ronald Roberts Jr. No Halil Kanacevic. But, there was Chris Wilson. There was DeAndre Bembry. And a Fairleigh-Dickinson team that, on paper, appeared to be ready for the taking. That simply wasn't the case.

After laboring through a sloppy opening half, St. Joe's found themselves in a 28-25 hole. DeAndre Bembry, a 1st-Team All-Atlantic team selection was just 1-7 from the field. Despite the deficit, the mood in Hagan Arena was not one of panic. St. Joe's would claw back into it, Bembry would get going, and the Hawks would get a win. An ugly win, but a win nonetheless.

That scenario didn't play out, however. It nearly did though, thanks mostly to a brilliant second-half performance from West Virginia transfer Aaron Brown, St. Joe's took what seemed like an insurmountable lead at the 50 second mark. With under a minute to go, in a game lacking offense, St. Joe's led FDU 59-55.

The Knights would get the game's final 5 points, however, on a Xavier Harris lay-up and then Jones' last-second step-back three.

Despite the poor shooting, there were bright spots tonight. And it would be a lot easier to write about them had Mustafaa Jones' three glanced off the side of the rim. How can you write anything positive when you lose your home opener to a school picked middle-of-the-pack in the NEC? Well, I'm going to try to provide some causes for optimism.

First of all was the play of junior Isaiah Miles. Miles didn't shoot the ball well tonight, going just 5-14 from the field and 1-4 from three. However, what he did well is what he'll need to continue to do well this year, especially when his jumper isn't falling. Miles posted his first career double-double, compiling 12 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Isaiah will need to shoot better than he did tonight, but his work on the offensive glass was definitely worth noting.

Another bright spot was the bench. Aaron Brown nearly won the ballgame for the Hawks, scoring all of his 9 points in the second half. While Shavar Newkirk's stat line isn't robust, he also had a solid debut for the Hawks. If those two can continue to play as they did tonight, this team will be alright.

The two biggest shockers tonight, on the flip side, the poor side, were the play of wings DeAndre Bembry and James Demery. Bemrbry shot just 3-10 from the field for 8 points. If this team is going to have success this year in the A10, he is going to need to be in that 15-20 point per game range. And then James Demery, who had a fantastic pre-season, looked like a freshman tonight. He had just 3 points in limited minutes. I would be very surprised if both wings didn't snap out of it and play well on Monday at Drexel.

Phil Martelli's bunch doesn't have much time to dwell on this loss. They return to action Monday night at Drexel then fly cross-country to play at Gonzaga on Wednesday. The season is upon us. While tonight wasn't the result any Hawk fan wanted, or really expected, it was a glimpse into the season ahead. There will be peaks and valleys. St. Joe's will be looking for a bounce-back win Monday night at the DAC.

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