St. Joe's wins easily against Penn

HEADING INTO the second game of Wednesday night's Big 5 60th anniversary doubleheader at the Palestra, Mr. Bracketology had Saint Joseph's as one of his first four teams out of the projected NCAA Tournament field.

This, for a team picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10, with most of the same cast back from a 13-win team that lost a bunch of close ones.

And, of course, for whatever that means with seven weeks to go until Selection Sunday.

Then again, how many figured the Hawks would even have put themselves into the equation? Just saying.

But they've lost only once since Dec. 1. That was Jan. 5 at home against Virginia Commonwealth, when they couldn't hold on to an 11-point lead in the closing seven minutes. Their other blemishes were inflicted by Villanova and Florida.

So . . .

A 75-60 win over Penn (6-9), which had beaten one Division I opponent since Thanksgiving, probably won't impact their RPI much. Still, they all count. And the last thing the Hawks (15-3) needed at this point was to stumble against anyone that at least on paper they should be expected to get past.

Even if the Quakers beat them last season, and took three of the previous five meetings. And isn't that what the City Series is supposed to be about?

DeAndre' Bembry had 17 points for St. Joe's, to go with eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. Aaron Brown had 15, Isaiah Miles 13 and Shavar Newkirk 11.

The Hawks, who have reached 15 wins faster than their 2003-04 group that got off to a 27-0 start, had 14 more points in the paint, 10 more off turnovers and 14 more on fastbreaks.

The Hawks, coming off a 25-point home win over Fordham on Saturday, led, 39-23, at halftime. Hardly surprising, they were simply too athletic. And right now too good.

Penn, which starts two freshman in the backcourt, scored eight of the first 11 points. But St. Joe's got 26 of the next 33 to create some separation. The Quakers got to within nine with 3:49 left until intermission, but the Hawks answered with eight straight. Penn had the final possession, but a turnover led to a St. Joe layup at the buzzer.

After falling behind by 18, Penn cut it to 10 with 15 minutes to go. And Miles, St. Joe's top scorer, was on the bench with four fouls. But the Quakers never got any closer.

One of their young guards, Jackson Donahue, finished with a career-best 19. They shot 38 times from the arc, making 11.

The Quakers had been off for 11 days since losing here to Princeton, a game in which they led by 11 with 3 1/2 minutes to go in regulation and then scored the first five in overtime, but none the rest of the way.

St. Joe is at La Salle on Saturday afternoon, if the weather doesn't get in the way. Penn is off until next Friday, when it opens it goes to Yale for its first Ivy League road game.

On Twitter: @mikekerndn