The 2016 NCAA Tournament has come to an end for the St. Joe’s Hawks.
After a narrow victory over Cincinnati, the Hawks of Saint Joseph’s were back in Spokane, seeking a spot in the Sweet Sixteen. The Hawks, the eight seed in the West Region, were matched up with the Ducks of Oregon, the top seed in the region.
Much of the game was marked by offensive impotence, with both teams seeking to exploit mismatches, but being unable to put the ball in the hoop. All night long, St. Joes struggled to convert shots from the perimeter, making just 4 of 15 from three-point land. Fortunately for them, the Ducks also did not shoot the long ball well, hitting just six of their 24 three-point attempts. In the first half, though, the Ducks were squeezing out enough points to consistently maintain a lead over St. Joe’s. The Hawks’ five-point deficit at halftime could be attributed largely to their eight first half turnovers. They started taking care of the ball much better when the second period started and actually forced the Ducks into several turnovers. Over this stretch, SJU, led by their revitalized defense, whittled away at the lead, eventually tying the ballgame at 45 on a deep corner jumper by Isaiah Miles with 10:20 to play. A few minutes later, freshman and Philly native Lamarr Kimble hit a three to give the Hawks their first lead of the game at 50-49. The lead for Saint Joe’s grew to seven before Oregon unleashed a 10-2 run. Dillon Brooks, who had a fantastic night, was the main catalyst of this run.
Then, with Oregon up by two and about a minute to play, the Hawks had a chance to tie or take the lead. Oregon used their length and smart rotations to force St. Joe’s to continually whip the ball around the perimeter. The Hawks passed so much that they did not even get a shot up before the shot clock buzzer went off. This was a back-breaking turnover that seriously harmed the Hawks’ chances of winning. They were not done yet at that point, however; with under 20 seconds to go, Saint Joseph’s, trailing by 3, still had a chance to tie the game. DeAndre’ Bembry, the Hawks’ go-to guy, was at the top of the key, poised to make a move, but he overdribbled and lost the ball. In the end, Bembry, Miles, and Aaron Brown, who carried the load for their squad for much of the season, were unable to do enough offensively to keep this tournament run alive. Unlike on Friday night, these three stars failed to score efficiently from the field, shooting a combined 12 for 35.
Nonetheless, Bembry made his mark on this game, playing all 40 minutes and contributing in multiple areas. He hit the glass hard, finishing with 12 boards, and he made several key buckets late in the game. Bembry was also responsible for the most spectacular play of the night:
This painful loss should not significantly alter the perception of what was a successful season for Saint Joseph’s. The team finished with a 28-8 record and earned its first win in the Big Dance since 2004. Now, the attention of Hawks fans will turn to DeAndre’ Bembry’s big decision. Over the next few months, Bembry will decide whether or not to enter the 2016 NBA draft. He is currently projected to go 30th in the latest mock draft on DraftExpress.com. With Aaron Brown, Isaiah Miles, and Papa Ndao graduating, the Hawks will have difficulty replicating this year’s success in 2016-17, even if Bembry sticks around for his senior season.