NEW YORK (AP) — DeAndre’ Bembry scored 30 points and Isaiah Miles had 26 points and 12 rebounds as Saint Joseph’s beat VCU 87-74 on Sunday to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship for the second time in three seasons.
The fourth-seeded Hawks (27-7) locked up an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, though they were likely getting in anyway. The second-seeded and defending champion Rams (24-10) will likely be in the field of 68, too.
JeQuan Lewis and Korey Billbury each scored 19 points for the Rams, who lost in the title game for the third time in four seasons.
Bembry, the conference player of the year, and Miles, the A-10’s most improved player, sliced up the Rams’ half-court defense with sharp passes, hard drives to the basket and mid-range jumpers. Miles converted a three-point play with 8:45 left in the second half that made it 70-49.
Moments later, two technical fouls on Saint Joe’s reserve Papa Ndao for arguing a call gave VCU six free throws that sparked a run for the Rams. They made five and had the lead down to 75-68 when Jordan Burgess hit a 3 with 4:15 left.
That was as close as the Rams would get.
Bembry put an exclamation point on the victory, drawing a foul on a fadeaway that had the Saint Joe’s fans chanting “M-V-P!” and with a dunk that made it 85-70 with 1:47 left.
Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks shot 64.5 percent in the first half and took a 43-34 lead, with Miles (15) and Bembry (13) combining for 28 points. … The Hawks were making their seventh appearance in the A-10 title game and fifth under coach Phil Martelli. … Ndao, who scored a career-high 14 points in Saturday’s win against top-seeded Dayton, got an animated lecture from assistant coach Mark Bass, who led the senior off the court and into the tunnel to the locker rooms.
VCU: Lewis was shaken up after running into a solid and legal screen by Miles at midcourt late in the second half. Lewis stayed down a while and the Rams had to guard four on five until Bembry scored on a layup. Lewis went to the bench for a couple of possessions and then re-entered the game. … The Rams won the lone regular-season meeting with the Hawks, 85-82, in Philadelphia. … VCU has played in all the A-10 championship games since the Rams joined the league and the tournament moved to Brooklyn. … VCU was making its sixth straight appearance in a conference tournament final, including its last two seasons as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.
Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks are back in the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season. The Hawks are in for the 21st time overall.
VCU: If the Rams get an at-large bid, it will be six straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
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