LEWISBURG - If the first half was any indication as to how Wednesday night was going to play out for the St. Francis women's basketball team, then it was going to be a long night for the Red Flash.
Fortunately, they showed up in the second half.
Sparked by a pair of double-digit, second-half runs, St. Francis was able to hold off Bucknell, 62-54, at Sojka Pavilion to give the program its first 2-0 start since 1976-77.
"Bucknell played extremely hard," St. Francis coach Joe Haigh said. "The first half was a little bit disappointing with our intensity level. Bucknell really kind of took it to us in the first half. They did a great, great job.
"I was very happy with the way we responded. I'm really proud of our team and how hard they played in the second half."
After St. Francis quickly stole the lead on buckets by Shene Fleming and Kia Gibbs to open the second half, Bucknell (0-2) responded with a 9-0 run, culminating with Katherine Harris' 3.
But the Red Flash one-upped the Bison.
Not only did they rattle off an 11-0 run of their own to retake the lead, the Flash found another gear and extended their advantage with an 11-1 run moments later.
And it was none other than Alli Williams that jump-started the second burst with three straight baskets.
The junior finished with 22 points, including eight on the decisive run. She also grabbed 19 rebounds - 11 in the first half - for her second double-double of the season.
"You get to a point in a game where you're sick of going back-and-forth," Williams said. "I figured I'd just take it on my back and increase the lead. And of course, my teammates were doing a great job of playing defense."
"Some of the shots Alli made were tough, contested shots," Haigh said. "I'm very impressed with her. She's able to play 40 minutes, she's able to play that hard, and really, 19 rebounds against the front line of Bucknell is very impressive."
But the St. Francis defense was equally impressive.
The Red Flash forced 21 turnovers, most of which came in the deciding spurts, and held the Bison to just 15-of-56 (27 percent) shooting.
"That's the way we play," Haigh said. "We'll pressure you the whole game and hopefully we'll cause some turnovers. We try to wear teams down."
"We out-efforted Xavier on Saturday - I know we came out on the short end of that stick tonight," Bucknell coach Aaron Roussell said. "We came into this - offensively, I thought we had an advantage in the post. We didn't do a very good job at finishing at the basket, but I thought we took a lot of quick shots."
Starting senior Kia Gibbs and freshmen bench player Aisha Brock didn't have big nights offensively, but their defense proved invaluable. As did the effort from freshmen Rebecca Sparks and Robin Perkins.
In all, seven bench players got in the game for the Red Flash, partly because of significant foul trouble.
"It was a challenge sometimes," Haigh said. "With starters in foul trouble and sitting out a lot of the first half, our bench players did a great job. Those contributions off the bench were good to see."
"We had a ton of people come off the bench and do a great job," Williams said. "I think that's a really good thing when your starters get in foul trouble, people come in and it doesn't break down your level of play. I think that was huge."
The Red Flash turnaround actually started just before the end of the first half.
Down 23-17 with 7 seconds remaining until recess, Hope Phillips - a 6-foot-2 center - curled to the top of the arc off of a broken play and drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
According to Haigh, her range comes as no surprise.
"We were running a play for Alli [Williams] and Hope was the second option," Haigh said of the set play out of a timeout. "[Brittany] Lilley found her and she hit the shot. It was a huge momentum swing going in [at halftime] down three instead of down six."
St. Francis returns to DeGol Arena on Sunday to host Akron.
ST. FRANCIS (2-0): Fleming 2-6 0-2 4, Williams 10-21 2-3 22, Gibbs 3-12 3-7 10, Lilley 0-4 4-6 4, Hayward 3-9 0-0 6, Carangelo 1-5 0-2 3, Brock 1-5 0-0 3, Sparks 0-1 0-0 0, Perkins 1-3 0-0 2, Keegan 2-5 1-1 5, Watts 0-2 0-0 0, Phillips 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 24-74 10-21 62.
BUCKNELL (0-2): Dotson 1-2 6-6 8, Horbatuck 2-6 5-7 9, Dunn 4-11 2-2 11, Romine 4-17 2-2 12, Jones 1-8 2-4 4, Mgbada 1-3 0-0 2, Voss 1-5 3-6 5, Harris 1-3 0-0 3, Heider 0-1 0-0 0, Imperllizeri 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-56 20-27 54.
Halftime-Bucknell 23-20. 3-point goals-St. Francis 4-18 (Phillips 1-1, Gibbs 1-2, Carangelo 1-2, Brock 1-3, Perkins 0-1, Watts 0-2, Lilley 0-2, Hayward 0-2, Williams 0-3), Bucknell 4-18 (Romine 2-8, Dunn 1-3, Harris 1-3, Jones 0-2, Voss 0-2). Fouled out-Fleming, Hayward. Rebounds-St. Francis 51 (Williams 19), Bucknell 46 (Horbatuck 15). Assists-St. Francis 13 (Brock 4), Bucknell 7 (Dunn 3). Total fouls-St. Francis 23, Bucknell 22. A-672.