Icy shooting dooms Hawks in loss to Bonnies

On a frigid February evening when a snowstorm kept many Hawk fans from Hagan Arena, St. Joe's struggled mightily on the offensive end in an overtime loss to Mark Schmidt and Saint Bonaventure. The Hawks mustered just 23 second-half points, missing key free throws in the game's closing seconds, and couldn't get enough offense in overtime.

Throughout this season, St. Joe's has had numerous games where they have jumped out to hot-shooting starts. La Salle, Dayton, and Saint Louis come immediately to mind. Saturday night, at Hagan Arena, the Hawks jumped out to an early 20-13 lead over St. Bonaventure roughly ten minutes into the first stanza. After scoring 20 points in those ten minutes, St. Joe's could only score four more field goals the rest of the half, and entered the locker room at halftime trailing 30-29. The Bonnies closed the half on a 17-9 run despite foul trouble to their two best players, Marcus Posley and Yassou Ndoye. Mark Schmidt rolled the dice by leaving Posley in despite the two fouls, and it paid dividends as the Hawks were unable to draw a third foul on him.

After Andell Cumberbatch opened the second half with a corner three to extend SBU's lead to 33-29, the Hawks clawed back. Two Javon Baumann buckets, free throws by Chris Wilson, and a jumper by DeAndre Bembry gave St. Joe's a 38-35 lead with 15:20 to play, and momentum seemed to be in the Hawks' favor. The remainder of the half was a back-and-forth affair, tied up at 48 with 8:33 to play after Isaiah Miles and Marcus Posley exchanged three pointers.

The final 8:33 of the game saw both teams do their very best to lose the game. In that stretch, each team could manage only four points. Looking back at that final eight minutes, there were a myriad of missed opportunities for the Hawks. After James Demery's second straight steal, DeAndre Bembry clanked a fast-break dunk that would have extended SJU's loss to 52-48. After yet another Demery steal, he missed two free throws that once again could have made it a two-possession game. Bembry hit two free throws with just under four minutes to play to tie things up at 52. With ten seconds to play, in a tie game, DeAndre missed the front end of a one-and-one. Miles corralled the rebound and Bembry once again headed to the line for a one-and-one. Once again he missed. An Isaiah Miles block at the buzzer sent things to overtime. In that extra stanza, SJU scored just three field goals, while the Bonnies sealed it at the free throw line.

In a game where SBU's star big man Yassou Ndoye didn't score a single field goal, Marcus Posley shot just 6-17 from the field, and star freshman guard Jaylen Adams missed due to injury, Saturday's loss was a pretty inexcusable one for the Hawks. The Bonnies shot 20-28 from the free throw line in the win, with Ndoye going 11-12. On the flip side, St. Joe's went just 8-17, including missed front-ends by DeAndre (twice) and Aaron Brown (once).

In addition to their poor free throw shooting, the Hawks were dreadful from three as well, going 6-23. Chris Wilson went 4-9, but his teammates shot a combined 2-14. As if the free throw numbers and three-point shooting numbers were bad enough, the Hawks also turned it over an astounding 20 times, many of them careless, pressure-free turnovers.

There were very few positives to take away from Saturday's loss, from a St. Joe's point of view. Chris Wilson was the most productive Hawk offensively, finishing with 20 points and 9 rebounds. If the loss proved anything, it proved that the Hawks need DeAndre Bembry to be terrific in order to have a chance to win. It's not even as if he was terrible; he finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. It was the missed free throws in the closing seconds that leave a bitter taste in your mouth. It was the second straight game where Bembry had the ball in his hands to win it in the closing seconds and couldn't pull it off.

James Demery showed some flashes, finishing with 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists. His jumper remains a major issue, but his defense was terrific once again Saturday. Frankly, if it weren't for miscues (his two missed free throws and Bembry's missed dunk), his sequence of three consecutive plays on the defensive end should have won the game for the Hawks.

The loss dropped the Hawks to 11-15 on the season, with 4 games remaining before the Atlantic 10 tournament. Things don't get any easier now for SJU, who travels this week to UMass. The Minutemen will be hungry, coming off a tough loss at VCU. Derek Kellogg also won't want his squad, with a slim tournament chance still at this point, to lose a second game on the season to a below-average Hawk squad. I'll have a full preview of that game up Tuesday.

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