LORETTO - It's getting so that St. Francis might need a heart surgeon more than trainer Terry Bennett to cure what ails the Red Flash.
Or a psychologist.
Coming off back-to-back overtime setbacks and a five-point loss at Monmouth, the Flash dropped another heart-breaker on Saturday afternoon, falling 75-72 to Sacred Heart at DeGol Arena to waste sophomore forward Earl Brown's seventh straight double-double and a breakout 20-point performance by freshman guard Ben Millaud-Meunier.
"There's frustration, because everybody wants to win," sophomore guard Dom Major said. "We have the tools to do it. It makes it more frustrating because we know we have the tools."
It was St. Francis' sixth loss in seven games decided by 10 points or less, dropping the Flash to 1-17 overall and 1-6 in the Northeast Conference.
The usual Achilles' heels, like starting slow or getting pounded on the boards, weren't what cost the Red Flash this time. Even playing without injured point guard Umar Shannon because of an ankle injury late in Thursday's loss to Quinnipiac, St. Francis scored the first six points and had an eight-point lead eight minutes into the contest on its way to scoring more than 70 points for just the second time this season. Led by Brown's 15 rebounds, St. Francis outrebounded just its fifth opponent this season, 35-30.
The Flash had more points on second chances (16-9), in the paint (32-30) and off turnovers (19-17). St. Francis had more 3-pointers and assists than did the Pioneers, only had one fewer point produced by its bench and shot 86 percent at the foul line.
And it still wasn't enough.
After its strong start, St. Francis just was tied at halftime. Then, Sacred Heart answered the Flash's 4-0 run to start the second half with a 9-0 spurt that gave the Pioneers the lead for good.
"After the game, Earl was talking to the guys about putting teams away in the first half. We had a stretch there in the first half with [Sacred Heart leading scorer Shane] Gibson going to the bench when we could have made that instead of a five-point game, maybe a 10-point game," Flash coach Rob Krimmel said. "As Earl said, we need to put teams away, or at least create more separation."
"We haven't played with the lead much. I think we got too comfortable," Brown said.
The Flash had their chances, too, even when they were down. After slicing a nine-point deficit to two in the last 3:35 with the help of seven points by reserve forward Ronnie Drinnon, Major came up empty on a jumper to tie and, following a Brown offensive rebound and a pass from Millaud-Meunier, Ollie Jackson missed a wide-open trey from the corner for the lead.
A few minutes earlier, Millaud-Meunier was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and only converted 1-of-3 at the line, as happened to Shannon on Thursday.
"In spots we got a little careless with the basketball, and that led to too many easy opportunities for Sacred Heart on the other end. In a three-point game, those possessions matter," Krimmel said.
Sacred Heart came back by stepping up its defense, coming up with 14 steals that led to 10 fast-break points.
"When we got into a little bit of a funk [offensively], our defense got a little bit better. Sometimes when that happens, your defense gets worse. Today, we couldn't afford it, the way they started. So we tightened that up," said Dave Pike, who's in his 35thyear coaching Sacred Heart.
Pike also was pleased with his offensive balance, with four players scoring at least 11. However, when Sacred Heart really needed it, they went to Gibson, a high-elevating 6-foot-2 guard averaging 19 points who scored 14 of his game-high 23 in the second half. The 5-9 Major drew the tough defensive assignment much of the game with Shannon out and Stephon Whyatt in early foul trouble.
"We knew he was a good player and he was going to get up a lot of shots," Major said. "My focus was to try to make him take tough shots."
One of the big bright spots in the loss was the continued development of Millaud-Meunier, who was 6-for-12 from the field, had four rebounds and two assists - he could have had more but recipients were unable to come up with or finish after some nice passes from the Montreal native.
"He's an energy guy. You know where he stands," Krimmel said.
Brown, meanwhile, had 14 points as his offensive potential began to show; two came on a blistering reverse dunk. However, his leadership potential also is becoming evident.
"Double-doubles don't mean anything to me," Brown said, "without the win."
SACRED HEART (6-11): Montes 3-8 4-4 11, Greenbacker 1-2 2-2 4, Gaetano 1-2 2-2 5, Gibson 8-17 5-6 23, Glowiak 3-10 4-4 11, Cramer 0-0 0-0 0, Abdel Latif 3-4 1-2 7, Tate 5-9 2-2 12, Falzon 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 25-54 20-22 75.
ST. FRANCIS (1-16): E. Brown 6-12 2-2 14, Mosley 3-9 5-5 11, Whyatt 2-3 0-0 4, Millaud-Meunier 6-12 5-7 20, G. Brown 1-4 0-0 3, Major 2-5 0-0 5, Jackson 0-7 2-2 2, Ervin 1-3 1-2 4, Drinnon 3-3 3-3 9. Totals 24-58 18-21 72.
Halftime-Tied 37-37. 3-Point Goals-Sacred Heart 5-13 (Gibson 2-4, Montes 1-1, Gaetano 1-2, Glowiak 1-6), St. Francis 6-19 (Millaud-Meunier 3-7, Ervin 1-1, G. Brown 1-2, Major 1-3, Jackson 0-6). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Sacred Heart 30 (Montes 8), St. Francis 35 (E. Brown 15). Assists-Sacred Heart 12 (Gaetano 6), St. Francis 13 (E. Brown, Drinnon, Jackson, Millaud-Meunier 2). Total Fouls-Sacred Heart 15, St. Francis 16. A-1,310.