BY JAKE OSWALT
Grabbing early leads helps a young team like St. Francis to gain confidence. Those early leads, however, have been hard to come by for the Red Flash, who rarely play with the lead.
It happened again to St. Francis Saturday afternoon against Bryant. The Bulldogs took control of the game in the middle of the first half and ran off with a 78-58 victory at DeGol Arena.
St. Francis’ Earl Brown made a layup to narrow Bryant’s advantage to 10-8 before the Bulldogs went on a 12-0 run led by Joe O’Shea’s five points to go up, 22-8. Bryant outscored St. Francis 18-10 the rest of the half for a 40-18 halftime lead. Bryant forward Alex Francis scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the first half.
The first half proved to be the difference in the game as St. Francis had as many field goals as turnovers (eight) in the first 20 minutes.
“We didn’t have a flow to our offense in the first half,” St. Francis coach Rob Krimmel said. “I didn’t like our energy level to come out. We got to grow as a team. I thought we took a step back in terms of getting certain guys shots. We had a stretch there where we turned the ball over and gave them some easy opportunities going the other way. Give them credit, they’re talented, they’re well-coached and they did what they do best.”
Bryant is 9-4 overall, 2-0 in the conference with road wins at Boston College, Lehigh, and NEC perennial power Robert Morris.
“The real importance is winning on the road,” Bryant coach Tim O’Shea said after his team won its fifth road game. “The conference championship is usually determined by the team that can win on the road. Obviously, we feel really good about our first weekend, picking up two road wins at places that are traditionally in this conference very difficult places to get wins.”
After finishing 2-28 last year, Bryant is poised for a great turnaround season.
“We lost to Robert Morris by 53 points two years ago,” O’Shea said. “It’s pretty substantial, pretty dramatic as any turnaround in the whole country in terms of what we’ve done year over year.”
Bryant had four players in double figures, led by Francis’ 21, Dyami Starks with 18, Frankie Dobbs with 11, and O’Shea with 10. Bryant finished with 17 assists on 27 field goals.
St. Francis (1-12, 1-1) outscored Bryant 40-38 in the second half in an up-and-down half. Brown posted his third-consecutive double-double, finishing with 12 points and 15 rebounds. Umar Shannon had a game-high 13 points and five assists and freshman Stephon Mosley had 10 points and made all foue of his field-goal attempts, but foul trouble limited him to 23 minutes.
Brown has added an inside threat to the offensive attack and on the glass as he collected 15 of the Red Flash’s 31 rebounds).
“Earl was a kid early in the year that we had high expectations for,” Krimmel said. “He struggled early, kind of trying to find his niche with this team and then he gets the concussion just as he is starting to break out into the Earl Brown we’re seeing right now. He’s a guy that plays with a passion, that plays with energy, and that has a toughness about him.”