LORETTO - Once it's gotten into Northeast Conference action, the St. Francis University men's basketball has been right there in its games.
"Every game, except the Bryant game, our guys have played with enough effort and energy to win the basketball game," first-year Red Flash coach Rob Krimmel said. "That, I'm proud of, and it's something we have to continue to build on."
A little validation in the form of wins, though, would help out.
That didn't happen on Thursday night. Despite getting another double-double from the ever-growing force that is Earl Brown and 22 second-half points from freshmen Steph Mosley and Ben Millaud-Meunier, the Flash opened what could be a pivotal four-game home stretch on a disappointing note, falling in overtime to Quinnipiac and its powerful inside game, 75-66, at DeGol Arena.
The loss - St. Francis' fourth straight after beating Central Connecticut State - dropped the Flash to 1-15 overall and 1-4 in the NEC. Two of the last three defeats have come in overtime.
"It hurts us. It hurts us," said Brown, who turned in his sixth consecutive double-double with 14 points and 18 rebounds, both Flash highs.
Down 10 at the half and 13 with just under 18 minutes to play, St. Francis came back to lead by two on Millaud-Meunier's pair of free throws with 4:52 left but then had to erase a six-point deficit and survive four Bobcat shots on the last possession to force the extra session.
There however, Quinnipiac scored six points in the first 2:17 on a Zaid Hearst's spinning layup and putbacks by Ousame Drame and Ike Azotam for a 65-60 lead that put the Bobcats firmly in the driver's seat. Azotam topped Quinnipiac with 22 points and tied Hearst for team honors with 10 rebounds.
"The first two minutes or so are so important in overtime," Krimmel said. "The ball was going on the block, and it wasn't always the big guys. It was the guards driving the ball to the middle and forcing rotations. Things we knew going into it, we just didn't take them out of: taking the ball out of the middle of the floor and second chances."
Quinnipiac had 19 offensive rebounds and outscored the Red Flash in the paint, 46-22. The Bobcats doubled-up St. Francis in second-chance scoring, 22-11.
"They have 47 rebounds, and 19 offensive rebounds, and 71 shot attempts," Krimmel said. "Those are hard numbers to overcome, especially for our team. We're learning how to win. We can't give a team like that extra possessions."
Snapping its own three-game losing streak, Quinnipiac improved to 6-10 overall and 2-3 in the NEC, despite playing without second-leading scorer Garvey Young and starting point guard Dave Johnson, who were injured. Hearst scored 13, while forwards Jamee Jackson and Drame chipped in with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
It was Quinnipiac's fourth overtime game and second win - the Bobcats beat Iona before taking UConn beyond regulation in a losing cause two days later.
"That helped," Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore said. "We looked a little green out there, but we shot 5-for-9 in overtime and held them to 1-of-7. I'm glad we were where we needed to be defensively in that overtime period."
The first half was tight most of the way before Quinnipiac outscored the Flash, 14-4, over the last 7:07. Mosley, though, had 11 points and five rebounds in the second half after being blanked in both categories in the first half, and Millaud-Meunier scored nine points off the bench - the freshman from Quebec was averaging 4.1 points in seven games coming in.
"Ben has done a great job being consistent all year with his work ethic," Krimmel said. "If you come to one of our practices, it's a competition for who is talking the most between Earl and Ben."
Brown continues to be a consistent force. He had two dunks early, then a nice spin move for a bucket and wound up with two blocks and two assists, to boot.
"I just want to continue to play hard, be confident and have passion for the game," Brown said.
It was a great opportunity for the Flash to get things turned around. Sacred Heart, which dropped to 5-11 by falling at Robert Morris on Wednesday, comes to DeGol Arena Saturday afternoon. Then the Flash host Robert Morris and Wagner next week.
"Our last three games, we have played hard enough, with enough energy and enough aggressiveness to win games," Krimmel said. "Now it's just one or two possessions and executing in spots."
Game notes: Stephon Whyatt scored 11 for the Red Flash to go along with seven assists. ... Flash point guard Umar Shannon was injured late in regulation but returned to the floor briefly in overtime. ... Former UConn star Scott Burrell is one of the Bobcats' assistant coaches. ... Saturday's game will be televised.