Red Flash arrive in Connecticut


Fresh off their conference-best 12th Northeast Conference Championship, the Saint Francis Red Flash will make their way to Storrs, Connecticut to take on the top-seeded UCONN Huskies on Saturday morning at 11 am on ESPN2.
Adam Amin and Kara Lawson will be on the call for the opening round game, which marks the third time that the two teams have met in the NCAA tournament. The Red Flash and Huskies tangled in the 1999 and 2002 opening round.
The Red Flash capped off a record-setting conference season with their 12th Northeast Conference championship, defeating Robert Morris 66-56 last Sunday. Saint Francis went 16-2 in NEC play, their best record since the 2004-05 season. However, the Red Flash set a new mark for margin of victory within the NEC, winning by an average of 17.9 points per game, highest in the last 20 seasons. In the tournament, Jessica Kovatch (Phillipsburg, N.J./Phillipsburg) set a new conference record, scoring 103 points over the three games, besting the mark set by Saint Francis’ career leading scorer Jess Zinoble in the 2000 tournament. Kovatch was named tournament MVP and set a new tournament record when she hit 11 threes against Fairleigh Dickinson in the quarterfinals.
Speaking of Kovatch, the junior was named to the final-10 of the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the Nation’s top point guard. Kovatch won six NEC Player of the Week en route to Conference Player of the Year award.  Her 822 points so far this season are a school and conference record as are her 141 made threes (which currently stands as the National record). Her 24.9 points per game average is second in the NCAA and the highest points per game average at Saint Francis since Alli Williams averaged 25.2 points per game in 2013-14.
Caitlyn Kroll (Bridgeport, Ohio/Bridgeport) has enjoyed a phenomenal rookie season to date, being named the NEC Rookie of the Year and to the All-Tournament team. Kroll was a six-time Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week this year. The redshirt-freshman led all conference rookies with a 13.4 point per game average and went for a season-high 30 in a win over LIU Brooklyn.
The Red Flash claimed three major NEC awards when Ace Harrison (Baltimore, MD/Digital Harbor (Maryland)) won her second-straight Defensive Player of the Year award. Harrison ranked in the top-five in the NEC in rebounds, steals and blocks this season. It is the first time in program history the Red Flash took home at least three major conference awards.
Saint Francis’ 24 wins this season are the most since 25 in the 2003-04 NEC title season. UCONN will be the eighth team the Red Flash will play this year that made the post-season joining Gonzaga (NCAA), Boise State (NCAA), Toledo (WNIT), Cincinnati, (WNIT), Duquesne (WNIT), Robert Morris (WNIT) and Youngstown State (WBI). To date, the Red Flash are 4-5 against those opponents. SFU enters the tournament with an RPI of 99, the third-highest in school history behind only the 2003-04 team (77) and the 2010-11 team (81). They come into the UCONN matchup as the second-highest scoring team in SFU history. The Red Flash have scored the most points in program history with 2,667 points but their points per game average of 80.8 is second to the 2013-14 team who averaged 82.4 points per night and good for 14th in the nation.
UCONN comes into the tournament by virtue of winning the auto-bid out of the American Athletic Conference. The Huskies have won 101 straight conference games, capped by a win over South Florida in the AAC title game. While the Red Flash come into the game with the #14 offense in the Nation, UCONN is tops in the NCAA, averaging better than 88 points a night. They spread the wealth offensively, with five players averaging double figures led by Katie Lou Samuelson, who averages over 18 points a night. The junior is one of the best shooters in college basketball, hitting on 46 percent of her threes, good for fourth in the NCAA. As a team, UCONN leads the nation in field goal percentage, shooting an impressive 52 percent from the field. Aside from this being the third meeting between the teams, UCONN has another tie to the area as sophomore forward Kayla Irwin hails from State College, Pennsylvania, about an hour from campus.

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