One year really does make a difference. For Exhibit A, take the St. Joseph's Hawks.

After splitting the first eight games of the 2013-14 season, the Hawks, with seniors Halil Kanacevic, Langston Galloway, and Ronald Roberts, won 20 of their next 25 games. That carried them to the Atlantic Ten Tournament crown and into the NCAA tournament, where they lost to eventual national champion Connecticut.

This season's version of the team has returned starters Chris Wilson and emerging star DeAndre' Bembry, and went 13-17, including 7-11 in the A-10.

The Hawks open the defense of their A-10 crown against St. Bonaventure on Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

"Last season, we had an older, hardened, more experienced group of guys," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "With these guys . . . I'm not blowing smoke and going overboard telling them somebody is going to win four games in four days and be a champion.

"I'm telling them that we have one game to win, and that game is on Thursday. If we want to play on Friday, we've got one thing we have to do: win on Thursday."

Part of the Hawks' problem has been the lack of a secondary scorer alongside Bembry, the conference's leading scorer (17.9 ppg.) and a first-team all-A-10 pick. Forward Isaiah Miles (10.5 ppg.) has had his moments.

Reserve guard Aaron Brown, a transfer from West Virginia, is averaging 9.5 points. He posted 20 points in an upset of conference regular-season champ Davidson and then scored a career-high 21 in a loss to lowly St. Louis.

The Hawks lost both games to St. Bonaventure (17-12, 10-8) - 70-61, on the road and 70-60 in overtime at home. St. Joseph's committed a combined 30 turnovers in those games.

"There are things we can control for a better outcome," Martelli said, "and that is one of them."

jmitchell@philly.com

@JmitchInquirer