NEW YORK (AP) - Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli was handing out grades for the first semester. He gave his Hawks an A-minus.
Isaiah Miles disagreed with the mark. And since he had a career-high 36 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in a 79-62 victory over Virginia Tech on Tuesday, it was right to listen to him.
“This is one of the best starts we’ve ever had so I’m giving us an A-plus,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement, but we can be really good. We’re all clicking together and that makes us hard to beat.”
The win in an Atlantic 10-ACC doubleheader at Barclays Center was the fifth straight for the Hawks (9-2).
DeAndre Bembry had 22 points for the Hawks. But it was Miles, a senior forward, who drew the attention, topping his career high of 24 points and matching his career high in rebounding. He has scored in double figures in all 11 games this season and this was his fourth double-double. He came into the game shooting 91 percent from the foul line and went 11 of 12 against Virginia Tech.
“I have to credit my teammates who found me when I was open.” Miles said. “At first my shot wasn’t going so I thought driving to the basket would help. I kept fighting for putbacks and made the free throws.”
Seth Allen had 18 points for the ACC’s Hokies (8-4), who had won four straight.
“They were the dominant team, energy, toughness. They overwhelmed us from the beginning,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “Miles and Bembry were the two best players on the floor and we couldn’t guard them.”
Saint Joseph’s led 35-26 at halftime behind Bembry’s 18 points. Virginia Tech cut the lead to 39-33 early in the second half and Miles took over from there. He scored on a follow shot and hit a 3 to restore the lead to double digits. In one stretch, he scored nine straight points for the Hawks.
“He sent a message to other team ‘Not today,’” Martelli said.
The Hawks dominated the boards, finishing with a 48-32 advantage, including 19-9 on the offensive end. The Hawks had a 26-4 advantage on second-chance points, and they held the Hokies well below their average of 80.5 points per game.
“They had 19 offensive rebounds that they turned into 26 points and there were all those free throws (19 of 25),” Williams said. “Those are two tell-tale signs of who the toughest team was.”
Saint Joseph’s took advantage of the Hokies’ poor shooting to open a 27-13 lead with 4:46 to go in the first half. The Hawks’ 15-2 run - Bembry had seven points - had scoring droughts of 2:55 and 3:20 for the Hokies who managed just one field goal in that span.
At the game’s first media timeout the teams combined to shoot 4 of 21 and that included missing all seven 3-point attempts.
Virginia Tech: Justin Bibbs entered the game second in the NCAA in 3-point shooting, having made 32 of 50 (64 percent). He was 0 of 2 from long range and had eight points. “They face-guarded him and that will be the case from now on,” Williams said. … The all-time series is tied 3-3 and all the previous meetings came when both schools were members of the Atlantic 10. …
Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks came into the game with a 4-2 record in Barclays Center, including the three wins that led them to the 2014 Atlantic 10 tournament championship. … Bembry entered the game leading the Hawks in scoring (15.9), rebounding (7.9), assists (4.5) and steals (1.8).
Virginia Tech hosts No. 19 West Virginia on Dec. 30.
Saint Joseph’s hosts Maryland-Eastern Shore on Dec. 29.
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