A systematic dismantling, that's probably the best way to describe the Saint Joseph's Hawks 87-74 Atlantic 10 Championship win over VCU on Sunday afternoon.
The Hawks won their second A10 championship in three years by once again knocking off the Rams and this time getting some revenge for an 85-82 home loss in early January. The Hawks slashed to the bucket with ease all afternoon as they shot nearly 65% from the field.
Early on it was Aaron Brown who ignited the Hawks scoring six of their first eight points. From there it was the normal cast of characters in DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles who brought St. Joe's home. Bembry finished the game with 30 points, five rebounds, and four assists while Miles had 26 points and 12 rebounds. Brown was the only other Hawk in double figures with 13 points.
St. Joes was up 43-34 at halftime and expanded their lead to 21 in the second half. The expansive lead let Phil Martelli to use more of his bench and get away from the seven-man rotation he leaned heavy on throughout the week in Brooklyn.
Despite having a 21 point lead with 8:32 left in the game, St. Joe's did come apart at the seams a bit. Papa Ndao was called for a personal foul and then was slammed with a technical for arguing with the referee. On his way to the bench, Ndao continued to show up the referee and was immediately ejected from the game.
Ndao's ejection along with a few other testy scuffles seemed to reignite VCU, and the Rams got as close as seven points when Jordan Burgess nailed a three with 4:28 to play. The Rams run was quelled though after Isaiah Miles hit JeQuan Lewis with a bone-crushing pick that seemed to deflate VCU's comeback efforts. The Hawks took care of business at the line and pulled away for the 87-74 win.
Lewis and Korey Billbury ended up leading the Rams with 19 points each.
St. Joseph's was slated as an eight seed by most bracketologist before today's game. Hopefully, the strong showing gets the Hawks a better seed and out of a potential match-up with a one seed in the first round. Last time St. Joseph's went to the "big dance" they were a ten seed and lost to eventual national champion Connecticut 89-81 in overtime
VCU is likely in good shape for their sixth straight NCAA Tournament bid. The Rams are expected to be around a ten or eleven seed, which would be their lowest seeding since they were a twelve seed in 2012.