St. Francis got a first-hand account of what it wants to become when Robert Morris came to DeGol Arena on Thursday night.
What the Red Flash witnessed was a Colonials team that was a step faster, physically stronger, experienced and carrying the confidence that comes with being one of the heavyweights of the Northeast Conference.
Basically, Robert Morris showed St. Francis what it takes to win in the NEC with an 84-70 victory in front of 1,411 – the largest crowd for a St. Francis home game in more than two years.
“When they get a team down, they do a good job of keeping that team down and they do it on both sides of the ball,” first-year St. Francis coach Rob Krimmel said. “They went with what was working and made shots.”
It marked the sixth consecutive loss for St. Francis (1-17 overall, 1-6 conference), and it looked a lot like the others. The Red Flash trailed early, worked hard in the second half but couldn’t make the plays to make things more interesting.
“This is a team with two overtime losses,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said of the Red Flash. “They have a three-point loss, a five-point loss, a seven-point loss. Even though they’re (1-6 in conference), it’s not like they’re not competitive and not dangerous.”
Robert Morris (13-7, 5-2), which has won 130 games dating back to 2007, rarely led by less than double digits and the Colonials surged to an early lead behind a barrage of 3-pointers against the 2-3 zone defense of St. Francis.
“When they went to a 2-3, it was a good thing for us,” said Robert Morris guard Velton Jones, who finished with 15 points and six assists.
The Colonials, perched in a familiar spot in the NEC standings just behind first-place Bryant, weren’t shy about taking shots from the perimeter after the Red Flash switched to man defense and with good reason. They kept making them.
Robert Morris made 13 of 27 3-pointers, including an impressive 5-for-7 performance from reserve guard Karvel Anderson.
St. Francis also shot successfully from behind the line as it made 10 of 18 attempts, six by freshman Ben Millaud-Meunier on his way to 22 points.
Jones got the Colonials started with nine early points that contributed to a 12-5 lead. Anderson took over midway through the first half as he outscored St. Francis 11-2 during one stretch and extended the Robert Morris lead to 39-20. Anderson finished with 22 points, 19 coming in an impressive first half in which Robert Morris had 15 assists against one turnover and made 10 3-pointers.
“Robert Morris is a talented team,” Krimmel said. “They have four guys on the floor that can make plays, make shots. In the first half, we weren’t tough enough.”
And that’s what cost St. Francis a victory against a program that made back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2009 and 2010. Still, the Red Flash can chalk up their second-half play as a bit of a moral victory.
“We were definitely pleased, but it’s something that we knew we could do,” said guard Dominique Major, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half.
“We have to do it in the first half.”
Actual wins haven’t come easy at St. Francis, which played this game without leading scorer Umar Shannon and starting forward Stephon Mosley, who is out with a concussion. The last winning season happened in 2004-05 under the direction of Bobby Jones. The Red Flash went 15-13 that year, including a 10-8 mark in the Northeast Conference.
“One of the things we have to do is stay healthy,” Krimmel said.
“We have to stay healthy and we are close and we’re building some momentum. We’re doing some things well in spots and it’s not all on the guys either. As a coaching staff, we can do a better job. I’ve got to a better job. We are close and that’s where some of the frustration comes.”
The record may be dismal, but St. Francis believes it’s closer to winning with significantly greater frequency than the wins and losses indicate. At least one Northeast Conference foe feels the same way.
“I think they are getting close,” Toole said. “When we had (the lead) up to 22, that’s an easy time for a team to quit. They kept fighting. That’s one of the earliest signs of the makeup of a team. They don’t let up. That’s a huge step in learning on the fly.”
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