The Hawks break out star, Isaiah Miles, got into foul trouble quickly in the half and was forced to sit on the bench, leaving him scoreless at the end of the first. Quality minutes were given to the Hawks bench, with guards James Demery and Lamarr Kimble and forward Papa Ndao providing 9 points. Saint Joseph’s free throw troubles continued in the first half, only going 7-14 from the line. Dayton’s Charles Cooke and Dyshawn Pierre consistently provided threats to the Hawks, scoring at will and actively competing for rebounds, totaling for 16 points of the Flyers 27 points and 8 of 21 rebounds.
While Dayton and Saint Joseph’s both had 16 points in the paint during the first half, the Hawks bench production, off T/O points and second chance opportunities allowed the Hawks to jump to a 36-27 lead at the half. The Hawks finished the half shooting 46.4% percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the 3pt, while Dayton finished shooting 35.3 percent from the field and 15.4 percent from the 3pt.
Heading into the second half, the Hawks’ Isaiah Miles committed his third personal and finally got in the books with a layup. Miles heated up and finished the game with a double-double (12-12). Dayton came out looking strong but was unable to deeply cut into the Hawks lead, largest lead being a 14 pt margin (SJU:54-Dayton: 40). Cooke and Smith came out shooting well from the field and the three forcing the Hawks to tighten up defensively. The Flyers eventually cut the lead down to 5 with 3:49 left in the game, but the Hawks quickly pulled away and with a monster dunk by Demery the Hawks won 79-70.
The Hawks victory over #15 Dayton was their first win against a ranked team in Hagan in 2 years. Dayton was also their highest ranked win since their 2008 win against Xavier. In his press conference, Martelli gave credit to a solid defensive game and limiting Dayton to only 7 free throws, where the Flyers went 2-7 on the game. SJU star DeAndre’ Bembry showed incredible athleticism, endurance and poise playing all 40 minutes and finishing with a double-double (16-13). Martelli also credited team success to the point guard position; Newkirk and Kimble combined to have 21 points for the Hawks. When asked about the implications of the Dayton victory and the NCAA tournament in March, Martelli kept a simple answer saying March is not the focus, the next practice, next game are priorities and March will be addressed if the Hawks reach it.
However this win certainly makes March a very real possibility for the Hawks. Last week the Hawks received 57 total votes in the AP Poll ranking just out of the Top 25. This win should send the Hawks into the AP Poll for the first time this season. Bracketoligist Lunardi now has the Hawks at a #8 seed in the tournament, a two spot jump from their previous #10 slot. If the Hawks continue to win, with what looks like a relatively “easy” schedule, there is little doubt that the hawks will enter the Top 25 and secure their tournament bid on Selection Sunday.
Looking forward into the A-10 tournament and NCAA tournament, the Hawks are definitely in a position for success. Led by Miles and Bembry, the Hawks have shown they cannot be ignored. Quiet stars James Demery, Lamarr Kimble and Papa Ndao, provide much needed and reliable offensive and defensive depth for the Hawks. While an NCAA championship may be a stretch, an A-10 championship and victories in the tournament and possibly a Sweet 16 birth are all very real possibilities.
With Villanova as the #1 team in the nation and the Hawks resurgence on to the national stage with a tremendous season, Big 5 basketball is back receiving all the attention it commands.
By Elizabeth Bloom