Led by junior DeAndre' Bembry, St. Joe's took down UMass, 74-57, at Mullins Center on Wednesday.
It was a bounce-back win for the Hawks, who fell to Davidson last Saturday, their first road loss of the season. The win over the Minutemen pushes their road record to 10-1 on the season. It also gives them a share of first place in the Atlantic 10.
Senior forward Isaiah Miles, the team's leading scorer, paced the Hawks with 20 points and nine boards. Do-it-all forward Bembry had 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Bembry always seems to be right in the thick of it for St. Joe's. Head coach Phil Martelli continued to heap praise on the junior swingman.
"The start of the second half, and I said that to him when I took them out at the end, I don't know what the numbers are going to show, but to me it's his leadership," Martelli said of Bembry. "He has something to say to every player on every play and they respond to that and, ironically, going through the airport on Saturday night coming back from Davidson, I said to him, 'That's the first game you didn't talk.'"
St. Joe's (23-5, 12-3) held just a 35-31 lead over UMass (12-15, 5-10) at the half before pulling away. UMass put together an 11-2 run, and Donte Clark's layup with 5:44 left cut the Minutemen's deficit to 59-51 with 5:42 left, but UMass couldn't get closer. Saint Joseph's reeled off 12 straight points, and Miles' three with 2:52 remaining made it 71-51.
Bembry has been a force in the A-10 and has been on NBA scouts' radar for the last two seasons. The biggest difference you see in him from his sophomore to junior seasons is his ability to lead. Martelli was very pleased with how he handled himself in a hostile environment on Wednesday.
Bembry came into the game with a minor injury, but played through it. He set the tone for his team defensively. Bembry grabbed three steals and made a key block. The swat, which Martelli described as "violent," stood out.
"He was a little banged up," Martelli said. "He didn't practice. He turned a bone-on-bone injury at Davidson. But as I've said to him, if you want to be considered the best player in the league, then you have to lead on the road and that's what he did. That (block) might be an example."
St. Joe's will return to Hagan Arena for a matchup against Saint Louis on Sunday. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.