PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The St. Joseph’s University men’s basketball team will bring a six-game winning streak into Saturday night’s match-up with Rhode Island up in Kingston.
The Hawks have been a great story this season. They sit at 17-3 for the season and they are 6-1 in the Atlantic 10. The Hawks have outperformed all the pundits’ expectations, but what did the head coach think he had heading into the season.
“I knew it in August, that this was a team that liked each other,” St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli tells KYW Newsradio. “I knew that this was a team that would have great leadership with (junior forward) DeAndre’ Bembry and work ethic. So that jumped out to me. Now whether or not we could play good basketball, that to me was to be developed. A lot of it was, I had to answer that. I had to give them a system and a way and a rotation that made the most sense so that we could accent what I think has really been a terrific team. Not the result, but the team itself. The way that they interact, the way they handle their business in the locker room, on Hawk Hill, going to class. That makes you want to work very hard for this group and to root for this group to have success.”
Listen to the entire interview with St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli:
Everyone expected big things from Bembry and he has delivered this season to the tune of 17 points and 8 rebounds a game. But another big reason why the Hawks have already blown past last year’s win total of 13 has been the play of Isaiah Miles. The senior forward actually leads the team in scoring (17.8 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg). This after averaging 10.7 points and 5.1 rebounds as a junior. Martelli talks about what’s allowed Miles to take his game to another level this season.
“The man in the mirror,” Martelli says. “He did it. The coaches spent a lot of time with him, but he had a plan. He had certain expectations and certain dreams, what he wanted to accomplish in his senior year and all credit goes to Isaiah. It’s just a perfect set-up. He’s giving back so much more to the program by how he’s playing. Not just in the production and the winning and that type of thing, but now he leaves a mark for the younger players to say, ‘You know what, it didn’t go my way freshman year. Maybe it didn’t go my way sophomore year. But look what he did, he kept working and working and working,’ and now he’s a player that is considered among the best in the Atlantic 10 and certainly one of the best in Philadelphia.”
The Hawks will take on a Rhode Island team that is 12-8 on the season. The Rams are 4-3 in A-10 play. They are also tough at home with a 10-2 record at the Thomas M. Ryan Center.
“Rhode Island is balanced at both ends of the floor,” Martelli says. “They put as much effort into defense as they do offense.”
Five players average double figures for the Rams, led by sophomore guard Jarvis Garrett and his 12.6 ppg. The Hawks already played the Rams once this season, grabbing a 72-67 decision at Hagan Arena on January 10th. Martelli expects a very difficult rematch.
“They are physically tough,” Martelli says. “They are mentally tough. Certainly having beaten them two-and-a-half weeks ago adds to the fire. So we have to get on the bus and head up there with the idea that this game starts right now.”
St. Joe’s and Rhode Island will tip-off at 6:00pm on Saturday.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.