Free throws haunted Saint Joseph’s in its loss to VCU, and at points during Sunday’s contest, it seemed poor free throw shooting would bite the Hawks yet again.
The Hawks would take care of business from the foul line in the final 1:43 of play, however, making 7-of-8 attempts from the line to hold off Rhode Island for a 72-67 win.
“We didn’t want to lose two in a row,” DeAndre’ Bembry said. “We just wanted to come in and play our game, and if we play our game, we’ve been winning this year. So, that’s what we tried to do, just get back to our game. Last game was a rough one for us at the end, and we just tried to stick to our game.
Despite poor foul shooting, Saint Joseph’s would keep pace with Rhode Island, as the lead changed 16 times in first half before both teams went to their respective locker room with the score knotted at 38-38.
While the Hawks struggled from the line, they were aggressive on defense, forcing eight first half turnovers and outscoring the Rams 10-2 off of turnovers.
Saint Joseph’s would emerge from the locker room ready to go, opening the second half on a 10-2 run to take a 48-40 lead.
“I thought we got gritty on defense and got aggressive on offense,” Martelli said. “We went at them.”
The Hawks would stretch their lead to as large as nine a few minutes later, but the Rams would be far from finished.
Rhode Island would rattle off a 10-0 run of its own to turn a nine-point deficit into a one-point lead with 7:18 remaining in the game. Saint Joseph’s would respond with an 11-3 run of its own, however, as the Hawks were suddenly back up by seven with 3:02 remaining.
Rhode Island would continue to pressure over the final minutes of play, but would be unable to get closer than five, as Saint Joseph’s hit its free throws when they counted most, sinking 7-of-8 attempts over the final 1:43 of play to pick up a 72-67 win over the Rams.
DeAndre’ Bembry would lead the charge for Saint Joseph’s in the win, recording 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists to help the Hawks improve to 12-3 on the season and 2-1 in Atlantic 10 play. Aaron Brown would add 19 points of his own, including knocking down all four of his attempts from beyond the arc, and Isaiah Miles would pitch in 10 points.
While the Hawks were able to make their free throws when they counted most, they shot just 65.2 percent (15-for-23) from the line in the game. Those numbers will likely need to improve as Saint Joseph’s gets deeper into conference play if it hopes to continue its early season success.
“We missed six straight free throws (today),” Martelli said. “We went 6-for-16 in the last 11:49 the other night or we would be 3-0 in the league. Now, with a mistake, you have to admit it, correct it and forget it, so that’s what we’ve tried to do.”
Saint Joseph’s will look to correct its free throw problems soon, as it now faces the daunting task of playing three of its next four games on the road, including two road contests against Big 5 opponents. First up is George Mason, who the Hawks will visit on Wednesday.
“Now we have to go on the road and measure up,” Martelli said. “We gave a game away on Tuesday. A home game. And you can’t do that if you want to be in the top half of this league.”
By: Kyle Babcock
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