By Ed Benkin


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — St. Joseph’s will have a long way to travel for the NCAA Tournament.

While Villanova and Temple will make the short trip to Brooklyn, the Hawks are headed to Spokane, Washington. They will play in the last game on the last day of the first round, as they are set for a 9:57 p.m. ET tip-off with Cincinnati. While many of the St. Joe’s supporters won’t be able to make the trip, the Hawks appear to be in their element as they hit the road for the opening weekend of the tournament. Forward DeAndre Bembry is more than happy to be traveling far away form the friendly confines of Hawk Hill.

“We’ve played very well on the road this year,” said Bembry. “We started off 8-0. I feel like being in a home environment sometimes doesn’t key people in. We play very well on the road, so we’re looking forward to it.”

The 27-7 Hawks will take on a Cincinnati squad which comes to Spokane with a record of 22-10. The Bearcats are looking to recover from a demoralizing quadruple overtime loss to Connecticut in the American Conference Tournament. However, Cincinnati has a reputation for being one of the top defensive teams in the country, and St. Joe’s Coach Phil Martelli knows his team will have his hands full.

“I don’t go to clubs,” Martelli said. “But I would never, ever sneak into clubs where these guys are going to be the bouncers. They treat the basket like it’s a club. Unless you have the proper ID and the cover charge, you ain’t getting in.”

While Cincinnati’s size and toughness will often break the will of their opponents, the Hawks insists they won’t be intimidated by the Bearcats. Bembry believes getting stops on the defensive end is the top priority for Friday, and that strong defense will lead to offensive opportunities.

“We can finish around the rim,” said Bembry. “We have some of the best finishers in college basketball. Even our point guards can finish around the rim. We’re not worried about that part. We’re just going to focus on our defense. The offense isn’t really the problem for us.”

(Photo credit: KYW's Ed Benkin)

(Photo credit: KYW’s Ed Benkin)

This will be the second appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the Hawks in three years, and their seventh under the guidance of Martelli. St. Joseph’s has a strong reputation for supporting its Hawks, but most students and family members won’t be able to make the trip to Washington state. However, Martelli knows the support will be there on the other side of the country while they take the court in Spokane.

“We know everybody is going to be watching,” Martelli said. “We know what’s going on here on campus. I do have to report I’ve gotten the library to agree that they’re going to close at nine o’clock on Friday night to allow the students to not be conflicted.”