AFTER THE first 250 games, scoring across college basketball is up from 69 points per game last year to 74, due to some combination of the 30-second shot clock and increased emphasis on allowing offensive freedom of movement. Scoring is way, way up Hawk Hill.
Last season, the Hawks averaged just 61.7 points per game. After blasting Buffalo, 89-67 Wednesday night at Hagan Arena, the Hawks (3-0) are averaging 81.3 points. Now, it is very early and the competition is about to get much more serious when Phil Martelli's team travels to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut to play Florida Saturday and either Purdue or Old Dominion Sunday, but, as signs go, the increased scoring is positive.
"I thought because of the way they were going to call the game, I thought maybe we could get to the foul line and make our foul shooting better," Martelli said. "And decisions on the rotation were based on the offensive team."
Aaron Brown became a starter because he scored the most baskets in the preseason. The coach was simply looking for points from anywhere.
This game was over as quickly as the Hawks could score 19 consecutive points to lead 21-5. Buffalo (1-2) won the Mid-American Conference championship last season and gave West Virginia a very good game in the NCAA Tournament, but the only resemblance between that team and this one is the jerseys. Coach Bob Hurley took off for Arizona State. Much of the talent is gone too.
St. Joe's went on that run without star DeAndré Bembry taking a shot. He was waiting for the right moment to get noticed. It came with 10:13 left in the half when he drove down the left side of the lane, took a hit, got fouled, laid the ball gently off the glass and in for point No. 1,000 in Game No. 68. The subsequent free throw made it 1,001.
"(Scoring) is not his game," Martelli said. "He's going to be a Hall of Famer here. He's going to be a Big 5 Hall of Famer down the line, but it's not going to be because of his points, it's going to be because of his game . . . We've had other guys here get to that number because they wanted to get to that number. With him, he wanted to get to 3-0."
Martelli thinks Bembry likes not having to do all the scoring. He finished with 10 points, five assists and five rebounds. SJU's Isaiah Miles, who lost 20 pounds in the offseason and is off to a great start to his senior season, tied career highs in points (24) and rebounds (14).
"It was one of those days," Miles said. "I was hyped from the beginning of the game. I'm excited mostly every game, but, for some reason for this particular game, I was really excited."
Miles credited assistant coach Dave Duda with getting the team ready and his weight loss for him "feeling faster running down the court. I feel like I'm jumping higher."
Martelli called Miles' effort "a monster game."
Miles had plenty of help from a team that suddenly has scoring options. Point guards Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr "Fresh" Kimble combined to score 21 points and deal six assists. James Demery, after a weekend lecture from his AAU coach Jeff McInnis, who had a terrific career at North Carolina and in the NBA, had 13 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.
Kimble was very assertive in the second half when he got major run.
"My teammates have been encouraging me the last few days," he said. "I've been feeling down. They encouraged me to stay aggressive."
He did. They did.
St. Joe's only scored more than 70 points six times in 2014-15 and just once got more than 80 and, as the coach pointed out, scored fewer than 60 12 times, a hard way to compete, much less win.
"You all watched it, to see the ball go in the basket, it looks like basketball," Martelli said.
Much more will be known about these Hawks after the weekend, when they play their fourth and fifth games in the season's first 10 days.
"I'm anxious to see us in a different setting," Martelli said.
Even more will be known after the next home game. That would be Villanova on Dec. 1.