Saint Joseph's rallies to upset Rhode Island

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DeAndre' Bembry, front, of Saint Joseph's scores against Hassan Martin of Rhode Island. (Charles Fox/Staff Photographer)

IT HASN'T been the easiest of seasons on Hawk Hill. Collectively and, in many cases, individually.

But sometimes, maybe it's just finally your turn.

Take Wednesday night at Hagan Arena.

Saint Joseph's, which is trying to get to .500, beat a Rhode Island team trying to make a case for the NCAA Tournament, in a game that neither team led by more than two in the closing 7 1/2 minutes. The same kind of game that the Hawks have found a way to lose too often this season.

Not this one.

The Hawks won, 65-64, when senior point guard Chris Wilson swished a wide-open three-pointer from the left corner with 7 seconds to go. The same Chris Wilson who missed a trey from straightaway 5 seconds earlier. Before Javon Baumann came up with the rebound and got it out to Shavar Newkirk, who quickly found Wilson from the top of the key.

It was the Hawks' first field goal in 7 minutes. Just as they drew it up.

St. Joe (11-12, 5-6 Atlantic 10) still had to make a play at the other end. DeAndre' Bemby, who missed a fourth consecutive double-double by a rebound, deflected the inbounds pass from E.C. Matthews, who came up with the ball and made a move down the left side. But the best the Rams' top scorer could do was get off a contested 10-foot runner that never really had a chance. Neither did the follow tip from the baseline by Hassan Martin.

The Hawks are now 8-2 at Hagan, having won their last five. They've won three of their last four overall for the first time since December. Which was also the last time they won back-to-back.

The Rams (16-6, 8-3) had won five straight in the A-10 for the first time in six seasons. But they have five in a row in this series, and still haven't won here since 2011.

"This was great," said Wilson, who missed his first four threes. "I raised up with confidence. I actually felt really great about the [one before that]. But the most important part of the play was the great job done by Javon and Shavar. And then we had to get a stop. It feels good for our team, heading late into the season. We're getting to the point where we're playing our best ball. Those [close] losses hurt. There's nowhere to hide out there. You start to go, 'Are we going to let this happen again?' We just have to worry about us.

"I don't have to be a scorer. It's been a bit of a rough season. One thing after another. Through it all, I've tried to lead, be a good teammate. I think it's a testament to the people [supporting] me."

When the go-ahead shot went in, he struck a triumphant pose.

"I don't know what that was about," he said, smiling. "I was probably feeling myself a little bit. You know how that goes."

He's probably allowed.

"You have to call it the way it is," said coach Phil Martelli, whose team visits Fordham (6-16, 1-10) on Sunday. "He hasn't had much of a senior year. For him to have that moment, that's pretty good.

"The fact that he shot it, I was OK. I mean, I'd be stomping and bitching if we lost. But you've got to be willing a miss a shot to take the shot."

The Hawks were down nine early in the second half. They finally took their first lead since 2-0 when Isaiah Miles made a triple with 7:04 remaining to make it 57-56. A team that has had free throw issues made four of six at the line the rest of the way. The Rams tied it at 59 and again at 61. They went back in front with 27 seconds showing, on a layup by Martin. But he couldn't convert the three-point play after being fouled. After that, it came down to two possessions. The Hawks got the best of both.

Their last seven games have been decided by six or fewer or in overtime.

"[Rhode Island's] been winning games like this," Martelli said. "I made a point of telling [our kids] that we're the older team in this game. They're starting two freshman and two sophomores . . .

"I think my assistant coaches deserve a lot of credit. They were in my ear all the time: 'Stay with the zone, stay with the zone.' I think we played some good defense."

For a change, it was just good enough.

Bembry, who scored St. Joe's first 10 points of the second half, had 19 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. The 6-6 soph is one of three players in the nation who leads his team in points, rebounds, assists and either steals or blocks.

Three other Hawks reached double digits. Miles (13) and James Demery (11), fouled out late. And there was Wilson, who finished with 10. And a lasting memory.

 


On Twitter: @mikekerndn

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