UMass basketball ready to slow down DeAndre’ Bembry, Isaiah Miles in second meeting with Saint Joseph’s this season.

By Andrew Cyr

(St Joseph's DeAndre Bembry battles with Demetrius Dyson in the last 30 seconds of the game. Cade Belisle/ Daily Collegian)
(St Joseph’s DeAndre Bembry battles with Demetrius Dyson in the last 30 seconds of the game. Cade Belisle/ Daily Collegian)

Ever since DeAndre’ Bembry joined Saint Josephs’ as a freshman in 2013, he’s been a thorn in the side of the Massachusetts men’s basketball team.

In five career starts against UMass (12-14, 5-9 Atlantic 10) – all Hawks wins – Bembry averages 21 points and 9.8 rebounds per game and has been a dominant force that the Minutemen have struggled to contain.

However, when St. Joe’s (22-5, 11-3 A-10) visits Mullins Center this Wednesday night, Bembry won’t be the only one that UMass will have to worry about slowing down.

Hawks center Isaiah Miles has been one of the A-10’s best players this season and leads the team in both points (17.8) and rebounds (8.3) per game. Miles is coming fresh off of a 32-point performance in St. Joe’s 99-93 loss against Davidson Sunday, as Minutemen head coach Derek Kellogg had nothing but praise for Bembry and Miles and noted how difficult it was to contain them.

“They might be the best one-two combo in the league as far as productivity,” Kellogg said at Monday’s weekly radio show.

Kellogg added: “Watching both of those guys, they get a lot of their stuff off broken plays and offensive rebounds. Bembry especially, gets them going with his defensive prowess: a big block here, a tipped ball there, a play in transition. So when it’s not really in the set confines of what they do, it makes it a little more difficult at times to contain those type of guys.”

In the first matchup of the season, the Hawks opened the second half firing on all cylinders as they watched a one-point deficit turn into an 11-point lead over the first five minutes, 55 seconds of the half before winning 78-70 at Hagan Arena. Miles torched UMass finishing with 27 points and 12 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes.

Defensively I know the guy Miles has been just killing the A-10 right now,” Antwan Space said Monday at the radio show.

“I’m going to make that my priority and my personal mission to do my best on him. I feel like if we can stop him it then it will give us a great chance to come up on top,” Space added..

Although the Minutemen allowed Miles to go off in the January matchup, it did however contain Bembry. Primarily guarded by Donte Clark, in addition to double-teaming him at different points throughout the game, Bembry was held to just 13 points on 3-of-13 shooting

“Donte did a great job on Bembry last game … we let the roles guys (James Demery) and (Papa Ndao) (hurt us), they made some key shots. With Donte stepping up and playing and doing his job on Bembry, we have to do our jobs as well,” Space said.

“Trying to keep both of them down is very difficult because we did double Bembry some and made the game hard on him. That freed up Miles and (Papa Ndao), they made a couple 3s that were big for those guys,” Kellogg said.

St. Joe’s is 8-2 in its last 10 games and prior to the loss against the Wildcats, were on a four-game winning streak defeating Dayton, La Salle, George Washington and Fordham. Kellogg said that when scouting opponents he likes to watch both the first matchup as reference and also spent time watching some of the Hawks most recent games.

“Probably everything,” Kellogg said when asked what tape is more revealing. “We’ll watch the game against them the last time to get a feel of what they are trying to do and what you are trying to do. I like to watch the last couple of games just to see who is playing well and who is making those 3s and is there anyone maybe not shooting the ball so well.”

Tipoff from Mullins is set for 7 p.m.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.