LORETTO, CAMBRIA COUNTY – For the second straight game, Saint Francis U saw an opportunity for a breakthrough win against one of the Northeast Conference's top teams slip away in wrenching fashion.
This time, the Red Flash played league preseason favorite Wagner down to the wire in a 56-50 setback Saturday at the Maurice Stokes Athletics Center.
"For our guys – we need a statement win against a team like Robert Morris or a team like Wagner," said SFU coach Rob Krimmel. "That helps you get over the hump and you start to get a little respect that way. For a young team, pushing through these tough losses and getting better from them is a part of the maturation process."
"When you're this close it hurts. It hurts."
In their latest near miss, the Frankies led for the first 23 minutes of action before their offense went cold to start the second half. Saint Francis led by as many as 13 points in the first half and held on to take a 29-28 edge into the intermission.
However, SFU went cold to start the second half, converting on only one of its first 15 field goal attempts.
Wagner (9-8, 3-1) took its first lead of the game on a Kenneth Ortiz layup that made it 32-31 early in the second half and then padded it with a Marcus Burton trey during an 8-0 spurt, making it 42-34 with 10 minutes to play. Burton finished with a team-high 14 points.
Both teams struggled offensively, but Wagner made twice as many trips to the foul line, hitting 14 of 18, and held a 43-34 rebounding advantage.
"I thought we came out with a purpose and focus on both ends and, more so, defensively. We wanted to limit them to one shot and take care of the basketball," said Krimmel.
"In the second half we came out with the same intensity, but let them get a few too many rebounds and couldn't get our wide-open shots to fall. If we step up and make a couple of those it's a different game."
Earl Brown (Philadelphia, Pa./Imhotep Charter) shouldered the load for the Red Flash offense, tallying a game-high 25 points to go along with eight boards. In addition to scoring half of the team's total points, Brown also accounted for 10 of SFU's 19 field goals.
No other player reached double figures for the Flash.
Saint Francis returns to action on Thursday when it welcomes Mount St. Mary's.
--St. Francis Athletic Communications
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