At times, the Hawks seemed destined to pick up that eighth straight win, but in the end, an old nemesis from a season ago, free throws, would rear their ugly head.
Saint Joseph’s would miss 10 second half foul shots as it saw a 13 point second half lead slip away in an 85-82 loss to VCU, snapping the Hawks seven-game win streak.
“For most of the second half, we played reasonably well,” Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli said. “But when the clock is stopped and you walk to the foul line and the ball doesn’t go in, it’s a setback. You have to win a home game that you’re up 13.”
VCU would continue to create havoc, forcing eight first half turnovers by the Hawks to help the Rams take a 38-35 lead to the locker room.
The Hawks would emerge from the break ready for another fast start, however, starting the second act on a 20-4 run to take a 55-42 lead. VCU would again come storming back though, hitting back-to-back threes to cut Saint Joseph’s lead to just seven.
From there, VCU would continue to chip away at the Hawks’ lead, utilizing six straight points by Mo Alie-Cox to take a 78-77 lead with 1:34 remaining in the game.
Missed free throws had begun to pile up for the Hawks and over the final minute and change, they would continue to struggle from the line.
DeAndre’ Bembry would be sent to the line with an opportunity to put Saint Joseph’s back in front by one with 1:24 to play, but would make just one of two shots to tie the game at 78-78.
Alie-Cox would respond with a jumper 12 seconds later to put the Rams back on top and JeQuan Lewis would sink a layup with 22 seconds remaining to put VCU up 82-78.
James Demery would then make a fast break layup to cut VCU’s lead to just two, but Lewis would sink two free throws to extend the Rams’ lead to four yet again.
Demery would pull the Hawks within two once again with a dunk with 10 seconds remaining. Melvin Johnson would then hit just one of two free throws with six seconds left to put the Rams up three and give Saint Joseph’s one last chance to tie the game.
Bembry would hit the rim on his three at the buzzer, however, as the Hawks fell to the Rams 85-82 and felt the sting of poor foul shooting.
“If I’m going to be the main person on the team, the leader on the team, I have to make free throws,” Bembry said. “If I would have made the ones that I did miss, it would be a different story. There was a few of us that missed free throws and that was the key to the game.”
For the game, Saint Joseph’s would shoot just 58.6 percent (17-for-29) from the charity stripe, including making just 9-of-19 foul shots in the second half.
“The disappointment is not in losing, the disappointment is in controllable factors,” Martelli said. “We turned the ball over, the first play of the second half we threw it out of bounds. In the first half, we were in a frenzy over kind of a passive 2-2-1 press. And then, 9-for-19 from the foul line in the second half. So it’s always been a game of numbers. And we didn’t answer it well enough.”
While the loss snaps a nice win streak for Saint Joseph’s the Hawks still appear to be a very talented team, one that is hungry to start a new win streak when they face Rhode Island on Sunday.
“Short memory. We can’t sit on this one, because then that affects the next game,” Isaiah Miles said. “So I guess, take our anger out on URI. Just go out and beat those guys and start a new streak.”
By: Kyle Babcock
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