HAMDEN, Conn. —
It only took a few minutes for Saint Francis coach Joe Haigh to know his team was in for a long night.
The Red Flash set an NEC record for futility in a 72-33 loss to top-seed Quinnipiac on Sunday night in the conference’s title game.
After jumping out to a 3-2 lead, Saint Francis fell apart. Shot after shot didn’t fall in the lopsided affair.
“It started right from the beginning. They came out and things were looking great when we were up 3-2. After that we couldn’t hold on for the last 38 minutes,” Haigh joked. “It was disappointing but it’s a long season. (Playing) 32 games we’ve had some games like this; this was our worst one. We’ll treat this as something to learn from.”
Saint Francis shot 24 percent from the field and had scoring droughts of 8 minutes in the first half and 9 in the second.
“We missed a lot of shots and didn’t play our game,” said Haigh, in his first season at the helm after former coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl left for Providence. “Credit Quinnipiac for that. They defended extremely well, rebounded well. We’re not going to beat anybody scoring 33 points.”
Quinnipiac (30-2) has won 22 straight games with the last loss coming on Dec. 29 at Georgia Tech. With their 30th win the Bobcats joined a select group this season reaching that mark. Only Baylor, Notre Dame and Stanford have more victories.
The NEC title came in Quinnipiac’s final year in the conference as the school is headed to the MAAC next season. The Bobcats will leave in record-setting fashion. It was the most lopsided game in conference history.
Quinnipiac scored 11 of the first 14 points. After Saint Francis (17-15) got within 13-7, the Bobcats went on a 17-5 run to turn the game into a rout. Felicia Barron had seven points during the burst.
“I think right now it’s surreal,” said Quinnipiac’s Brittany McQuain, who earned outstanding player of the tournament honors and led the team with 14 points. “We’re trying to let it all sink in. It’s everything we talked about since losing to Monmouth in the semifinals last year. It’s exactly what we wanted and I’m so proud of everything we done.”
It has been a great year on campus at Quinnipiac. The men’s hockey team is ranked No. 1 in the nation and now the women’s basketball team will be headed to the NCAAs.
The Bobcats returned 12 players from a team that won 22 games last season before losing to Temple in the WNIT, so their success was not entirely unexpected.
The team really started believing this season could be something special when they beat St. John’s by three points in December.
Quinnipiac, which had only made the NEC title game once before in 2006 losing to Sacred Heart, went undefeated in conference play. The Bobcats won by an average of 14 points.
“It’s an awesome, awesome moment,” Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri said. “I told the team, thanks for making my dream come true.”
The team’s depth has allowed Fabbri to implement an unusual strategy, subbing five players in and out of the game at a time, much like a line on the school’s incredible hockey team.
Saint Francis was looking for its 12th conference tournament title. The last came in 2011 when the team beat Monmouth, which is also bolting for the MAAC next season.
The Red Flash were done in by poor shooting. After Alexa Hayward hit a 3-pointer to start the game, the team went 8 minutes with a basket. The offensive woes continued as they finished the first half with a season-low 15 points and shot just 22 percent (6-for-27) from the field.
Things didn’t get any better in the second half as Quinnipiac scored 23 of the first 25 points. Saint Francis missed 16 of its first 17 shots and trailed 55-17 with 8:19 left in the game.
Rebecca Sparks finally ended the nearly 9-minute offensive drought with a layup.
The Red Flash easily surpassed the 48 points Monmouth scored last season. Saint Francis also broke the overall conference tournament mark for futility set by Quinnipiac in 2011.
The NEC is one of the rare conferences that re-seeds its bracket after the first round. Saint Francis was the fourth seed and beat fifth-seeded Central Connecticut in the opening round. The Red Flash then beat No. 2 Sacred Heart in the semifinals.
Quinnipiac beat Bryant in its tournament opener before topping sixth seed Mount St. Mary’s in the semifinals.