FDU brings up the ball against the Saint Francis defense. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)
Teaneck, NJ -- Coming off a loss Saturday at LIU, the FDU Knights hoped to regroup against visiting Saint Francis University.
The Red Flash came in following a home win over Robert Morris two days ago. For the Knights, it was an opportunity to get back in the win column and settle a score. They seized that opportunity in a most unorthodox manner. FDU defeated the Red Flash 73-72 in another of those ‘typical’ Northeast Conference thrillers.
First Quarter: The first time the teams met, Saint Francis emerged an 87-67 victor over the Knights. In that light, a good start was vital for the Knights. At the five-minute media timeout, FDU had a 7-6 lead. Both teams are running early. St. Francis has height, bringing 6-3 freshman Courtney Zezza off the bench. FDU would counter, setting up inside threat Erika Livermore on the high post to set screens before going to the low blocks. Height aside, it was a guard, Halee Adams, who hit a three and two in close to allow the Red Flash to open a five-point lead late in the first quarter.
End of First Quarter: Saint Francis 18, FDU 15
Second Quarter: FDU was still looking to run as Saint Francis ran a three-out, two-in set, moving the ball on the perimeter and taking the open shot, preferably from beyond the arc. The visitors had trouble finding the mark early, as a 9-2 FDU run built a four-point lead just before the media timeout. The lead hit a dozen as FDU’s defense sparked transition. The inside work of Livermore also contributed to the spurt. Saint Francis' Brielle Ward scored on a layup with seven seconds remaining, the only field goal of the quarter for the Red Flash, compared to ten for FDU.
Halftime: FDU 43, Saint Francis 25
Possessions: Saint Francis 43, FDU 44
Offensive efficiency: Saint Francis 58, FDU 98
Third Quarter: Saint Francis took to the perimeter to get back in the game. The Red Flash offense is four, sometimes all five out (on the perimeter). Finding the shooting range, plus some full court pressure, got the deficit to a manageable 13 points. The pace is helter-skelter as the Knights, on beating pressure, finished their possessions in transition. The outlook for Saint Francis was much better than at halftime, with the offense clicking and defense responding as well.
End of Third Quarter: FDU 58, Saint Francis 47
Fourth Quarter: FDU chose to run more sets, rather than get caught in all out transition. The Knights are not getting totally conservative on offense to protect the lead. Rather, it is designed to eliminate turnovers and get a shot while using some clock in the process. With just over four minutes left, it is a two-possession game. The three-pointer is an offensive weapon, and Saint Francis is using it. With two minutes to go, an eternity, FDU leads 69-65. Closing out is tough when the offense has four on the perimeter, all willing to fire. Alisha Brock’s three with just under a minute left cuts FDU’s lead to three. Katie Reese’s penetration basket with under 15 seconds left is Saint Francis’ only one in the lane this quarter. It gives the Red Flash the lead. FDU comes down and Kelsey Cruz commits an offensive foul. The ball falls out of bounds, and on the inbounds, FDU steals and Livermore is fouled. She cans both to give the Knights a thrilling victory.
Final: FDU 73, Saint Francis 72
Possessions: Saint Francis 81, FDU 84
Offensive efficiency: Saint Francis 89, FDU 87
A ‘5 per center’: That is roughly the percentage of times the ‘winner’ in efficiency comes up short on the scoreboard.
What Saint Francis did well: Stay tough. Down 18 at the half and looking at a 23-point deficit with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Red Flash, possession by possession, stayed with it. Their ability to pressure and force turnovers went a long way toward completing the comeback.
What FDU did well: Get four players in double figures. All season long, coach Pete Cinella preached the positives of having more than two (Livermore with 26 and Cruz 14) hit double figures. Tonight, Kiana Brown (12 points) and Anastasia Williams (11) got into the act.
Coach Joe Haigh’s Red Flash shot 51 of their 79 attempts from three. On the NEC season, 46 percent of their attempts have been from long distance. Saint Francis shot 10-of-51 (19.6%) from three. FDU was 3-of-11 (27.3%) while enjoying a 34-16 points in the paint advantage, no surprise as Saint Francis lived on the perimeter and FDU had Livermore with her ‘interior decorating.’
Using transition as a means to come back, Saint Francis led 20-10 in fast break points. Brielle Ward led the Red Flash with 15 rebounds, while Livermore paced all rebounders with 18.
Saint Francis is 6-4 in NEC play. FDU is now at .500, 5-5.
“When they made their run, we made it a point not to panic. We rushed a bit and turned it over, but we were determined. We were not going to lose this game.”- FDU’s Kelsey Cruz
“We had 11 players contribute to a great win. We led for 39 minutes (actually 33) and could have folded at the end. The last play, we made a great steal and decision getting into Livermore’s hands. We were resilient. We knew they would go on runs. They run, press and shoot the three, that’s their game. Every time they went on a significant run with a few threes, we answered with a big bucket, answering threes with a two. Anastasia Williams was huge. She gave us 11 points and 12 rebounds, but more importantly, the energy we needed at certain spots.”- FDU coach Pete Cinella