Down double digits, Hawks rally past GW

In the closing seconds of the first half, St. Joe's junior DeAndre Bembry raced down the court and half-slammed, half-guided the ball down as the buzzer sounded. The play received little fanfare from Bembry, his teammates, or coaches. Even after the basket, the Hawks trailed George Washington by 14, 49-35 at the half. That play was just a taste of what was to come. however, for Bembry's Hawks.

That play should have signaled to everyone in attendance at the Barclay's Center, everyone watching at home, and everyone following online that St. Joe's, led by their conference player of the year, weren't going to let George Washington just have this game. It was a rough first half for the Hawks until Bembry's ridiculous gliding basket. The Colonials shot 11 for 16 from three in the first half. And while some of those were just terrific shots, an alarming number weren't tightly contested. The Hawks were recently torched by Davidson and Saint Bonaventure. And they were in the process of having that happen again, giving up 49 first-half points to GW. Then halftime happened.

Phil Martelli, upon the insistence of his assistant coaches, switched things up defensively in the second half. Instead of strictly playing man, Martelli mixed in zone. The defensive changes made in the locker room had an immediate impact on the court. The Hawks came out of the locker room looking, and playing, like a different team. St. Joe's opened the second stanza on a 13-4 run, punctuated by a deep Bembry triple, pulling St. Joe's within 52-48.

After the Hawks pulled within 4, George Washington responded, getting a three-point play from Tyler Cavanaugh on a circus-shot high off the glass to increase their lead to 58-50. That basket prompted Mike Lonergan to pump his first, as his Colonials appeared on the verge of a win that would come close to punching their NCAA tournament ticket. The resilient Hawks didn't fold though. After the deficit swelled back to 8, St. Joe's scored seven of the next ten, capped by a Lamarr Kimble three. After trailing almost the entire game, it was the unlikeliest of three-point shooters, James Demery, that gave the Hawks their first lead of the second half, 70-69, with a right-wing three.

Demery's three was arguably the second biggest play of the game for St. Joe's. The biggest came shortly after, when Aaron Brown drove on Tyler Cavanaugh, getting the and-one and fouling the 7 footer out. The free throw by Brown, who was 7-7 from the stripe on the day en route to his 19 points, gave the Hawks a 75-73 lead. And the Hawks wouldn't look back. St. Joe's used their 51-point second half to earn a hard-fought 86-80 win.

DeAndre Bembry paced St. Joe's with 21 points. He scored from all three levels, finishing at the rim, scoring in the high-post, hitting from deep. Bembry played like the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, but he had help. Aaron Brown finished with 19 and Isaiah Miles with 15 from the starting lineup. Sophomore wing James Demery, who has been in a huge slump since the Dayton game, erupted for 15 points off the bench, which he paired with a team-high 8 rebounds. Finally, freshman point guard Lamarr Kimble chipped in with 11 off the bench.

The implications of Friday's win can't be undersold. It's entirely possible, in fact probably likely, that the Hawks would have made the NCAA tournament even with a loss to George Washington. However, it could have been a Platy-In-Game scenario. The Hawks would have been sweating. Now, they can move forward knowing that they're firmly in the field. Friday's game was so critical for the team's confidence. Demery in particular had been struggling. If Friday's game can get him going again before the NCAA tournament, that would bode extremely well. Lamarr Kimble continued his fantastic stretch of play off the bench. The fact that the Hawks were able to come back, storm back, and get this win, helps get the bitter taste of the last few weeks out of their mouth.

St. Joe's now has less than 24 hours to prepare for a rematch with the Dayton Flyers. I will have complete coverage of that from Brooklyn tomorrow.

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