Hawks improve to 10-2 with win over UMES

On Tuesday night, the Hawks got all they could handle from visiting Maryland Eastern Shore. After St. Joe's built up an early 30-16 lead, UMES stormed back and kept it competitive all night. In the end, the Hawks earned their tenth win of the year and will head into Atlantic 10 play at 10-2. My takeaways are inside.

Simply recapping a game like last night's 78-68 win over Maryland Eastern Shore doesn't provide a ton of insight. It was a game that the Hawks should have won. And while it was ugly at times, and closer than it likely needed to be, it was a win. This isn't college football, and there are no such thing as style points. It was the Hawks' sixth win in a row. Post-game, head coach Phil Martelli said, "I want to give them everything I have to keep this going. We've advanced and we're playing better. Learning from losing has never been a big thing for me. I'd rather learn from winning."

Isaiah Miles once again led the way for the Hawks in terms of scoring output. Miles poured in 17 points on 5-12 shooting from the field. On the year, Miles is now averaging a team-high 17.3 points, a team-high 8 rebounds, and a team-high 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 37% from three and 91% from the free-throw line. He is very much in the conversation when it comes to most-improved players in the Atlantic 10 and has put himself in the mix for All-League discussion.

While Miles led the way in terms of scoring, DeAndre Bembry and James Demery provided the game's highlight reel plays. Demery, who finished with 11 points and 6 boards, had a monster put-back jam in the second half where he seemingly levitated above the rim before slamming it home. James went 3-4 from the line last night as well, making him 17-22 (77%) over the last nine games. DeAndre Bembry, who tallied 15 points and 9 boards, had a ridiculous drive down the right baseline where he evaded a defender for the reverse dunk. Bembry went 2-5 from three last night and is now 8=17 over the last three games, good for 47%.

St. Joe's was one of the worst three-point shooting teams in America last year, and through the first chunk of this season. Over the last three games, however, the Hawks are 32-80 (40%) from deep. If the Hawks can continue to shoot at that clip, it will do wonders for them offensively. It spreads out the offense, keeps defenses honest, and opens up driving lanes for the likes of DeAndre Bembry, James Demery, Aaron Brown, and Shavar Newkirk.

While the Hawks shot it well again last night, they didn't defend the three well, and that's one of the reasons why UMES was able to make it a competitive game. The Shore Hawks shot 11-27 from deep, led by Ryan Anding's 4-8 off the bench. Granted, a number of the made threes were late-in-the-shotclock desperation heaves, but there were several times where St. Joe's was lazy in their close-outs or simply didn't get a hand up.

Tuesday night was freshman forward Pierfrancesco Oliva's best game in a while. Oliva only played 16 minutes, but in those minutes tallied 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. His minutes have decreased since the return of Papa Ndao, understandably. For a freshman, Oliva has a maturity to his game. In his last six games, he has 16 assists to just 2 turnovers. His play will be critical to this team's success in league play.

Phil Martelli has seemed to settle on an 8-man rotation this season. The starting lineup has remained unchanged, with Shavar Newkirk, Aaron Brown, DeAndre Bembry, Isaiah Miles, and Pierfrancesco Oliva. Then Martelli has gone with a bench of Papa Ndao in the front court, James Demery on the wing, and Lamarr Kimble at the point. Chris Clover, Markell Lodge, and Javon Baumann have gotten spot minutes this season and could figure into things at some point, but they currently seem to be just outside the primary rotation.

The Hawks will begin Atlantic 10 play on Saturday at 12:30 at Richmond. I will have a full preview of that league opener on Friday.

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