Isaiah Miles connected on a three-pointer with eight seconds left to lift eighth-seeded Saint Joseph's to a thrilling 78-76 win over ninth-seeded Cincinnati in the NCAA First Round at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The Hawks now advance to the NCAA Second Round game against top-seeded Oregon on Sunday evening at 9:40 p.m. Eastern (6:40 p.m. local time) on TBS.
The game was nip and tuck in the final five minutes, and was tied at 68-68. Jacob Evans put the Bearcats up 71-68 with a three-pointer at 5:08. Bembry answered with a jumper and Miles converted a layup to give the Hawks a 72-71 lead.
Bembry then found Brown for a three-pointer at 2:43 to give the Hawks a 75-71 lead and after the teams went scoreless for the next minute, Farad Cobb buried a three at 1:37 to pull Cincinnati within 75-74. After a Hawk turnover and a miss by Cincinnati, Brown attempted a three-pointer that was blocked by Octavius Ellis. The Bearcats came up with the ball and Troy Caupain found Evans for a dunk at :16 to put UC ahead 76-75.
The Hawks called timeout and Bembry got the ball to Miles, who knocked down the first game-winning shot of his Saint Joseph’s career. Cincinnati had one last shot but Ellis dunked the ball just after the buzzer and the Hawks’ win was preserved.
Bembry had 23 points for SJU, with 20 in the first half. Miles finished the game with 19 points and Aaron Brown had 13. James Demery scored 10 points for Saint Joseph’s.
"We had so many plays that we left out there that are very disappointing, but here's the idea; I said to them at halftime that we have to win a 20-minute game. We won a 20-minute game by a point," said SJU coach Phil Martelli. "These players are very very special and I'm delighted to coach them one more day... It's all him [Isaiah]. He worked hard all spring and all summer . . . I'm delighted that the ball went in the bucket."
"We wouldn't be here without Isaiah. He made a big play for us," said Bembry.
POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE
Saint Joseph’s led 41-40 at halftime and after Cincinnati took a 49-48 lead on a three-point play by Coreontae DeBerry, the Hawks went on a 15-2 run, with eight points from Brown, to take their biggest lead of the game, 63-51.
But Cincinnati fought back, answering with a 15-3 run to tie it, 66-66, with 6:12 to play.
It was all Bembry in the first half for the Hawks as he scored seven straight points, and nine of the Hawks’ first 13, as the teams were tied, 13-13. SJU pulled ahead on a three by Miles, a three-point play from Demery and a three-pointer from Bembry to give the Hawks their biggest lead of the half, 25-17.
Cincinnati, which made five three-pointers in the half, went on a 10-2 run and hit four straight field goals to regain the lead, 32-31, at 3:26 on a three by Evans.
Bembry hit a three-pointer and the ensuing free throw to put SJU back in the lead, 39-38, at 1:20 remaining, and Saint Joseph’s owned a 41-40 lead at halftime.
It marked Saint Joseph's first NCAA Tournament win since March 25, 2004.
The Hawks are now 28-7, for the second most wins in school history, and will tie the school record for games in a season on Sunday when they play their 36th, matching the 2004-05 team which reached the NIT Championship game.