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Flash dig too deep of a hole

February 8, 2008
By Cory Giger,
LORETTO — Two things have occurred when a team slices a 25-point second-half deficit down to two.

It’s sort of like the glass is half-full or half-empty debate.

The team can be proud it nearly staged an incredible comeback. Or, it can be ashamed it let the game get out of hand so badly in the first place.

St. Francis was more ashamed than proud after that scenario unfolded in Thursday night’s 71-61 loss to Long Island at DeGol Arena.

‘‘We’ve got to find a way to get ourselves mentally ready to play games,’’ Red Flash coach Bobby Jones said.

St. Francis’ players weren’t mentally prepared and played about as poorly as possible in the first half. Long Island shredded the Flash defense, shooting 62 percent for a 45-22 lead at the break.

It was 47-22 with 19:45 to go when St. Francis finally woke up. The next 17 minutes produced a comeback that would have been of epic proportions had the Flash managed to fight all the way back.

They fell two points short, however, so no matter how impressive the rally, it’s still just a loss.

‘‘If we came out focused, it would be a totally different game,’’ point guard Cale Nelson said of the forgettable first half.

Amazingly, the Flash still had a chance to win despite their rough showing early. They whittled away at the deficit throughout the second half, taking advantage of LIU’s cold shooting.

‘‘We got up 25, I could have sworn St. Francis came down and put a cover on that rim,’’ said Blackbirds coach Jim Ferry, whose team shot 29 percent in the second half.

The Flash (5-17, 3-8 Northeast Conference) went on a 16-3 run that began with 15 minutes left to trim the deficit to 55-49, and it was anyone’s game in the closing minutes.

When Chris McFarland hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it 61-59 with 2:41 to go, it appeared the Flash were on their way to a miracle victory.

‘‘I knew we were capable of coming back,’’ SFU’s Devin Sweetney said.

A loose ball went out of bounds with two minutes to go, and the officials initially ruled in the Flash’s favor. That would have given them possession with a chance to tie.

The officials met, however, and overturned the call. The Blackbirds (12-10, 4-7) got possession, and Jaytornah Wisseh drove the lane for a key bucket that made it 63-59 lead with 1:55 left.

Sweetney missed a 3-pointer on the next trip, then Wisseh sank two free throws to stretch the margin back to six. As often is the case, St. Francis used so much energy fighting back that it had none left in crunch time.

The Blackbirds made eight consecutive free throws down the stretch to seal it. Kellen Allen led LIU with 19 points, while Wisseh had 18.

Bassirou Dieng led the Flash with 16 points. Chris Berry had 12 and Sweetney 10.

Jones usually plays the ‘‘I’m so proud of my team’’ card in these type of losses — and there have been a lot of them for the Flash in recent years. The coach didn’t go that route this time, though, as he instead focused more on his team’s poor start.

‘‘Had we came out the first 20 minutes the way we did the second 20 minutes, we’d have had a much better chance to win the basketball game,’’ he said.

This was a key loss for SFU as it opened a two-game homestand against bottom-tier teams in the NEC. The Flash needed to win both to help their chances of reaching the conference tournament, but the players showed no sense of urgency at the outset.

‘‘This team understands they need to get themselves ready to play each and every night,’’ Jones said.

Do they really, the coach was asked, because it often doesn’t appear that way.

‘‘I said they do, and I’ll repeat that,’’ Jones said.

LONG ISLAND U. (12-10): Kotorobai 0-6 7-7 7, Manigault 0-1 0-0 0, Adomaitis 1-2 4-4 6, Wisseh 7-13 4-5 18, Hicks 4-8 3-4 12, Johnson 3-8 0-0 9, Mozee 0-1 0-0 0, Mattison 0-0 0-0 0, Udanoh 0-0 0-0 0, Allen 8-11 3-3 19. Totals 23-50 21-23 71.

ST. FRANCIS (5-17): Berry 5-11 0-0 12, Dieng 7-11 2-3 16, Sweetney 4-10 2-2 10, Ford 0-0 0-0 0, Nelson 1-6 2-3 5, McFarland 0-0 1-2 1, Surprenant 1-4 0-0 3, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Jukic 0-1 0-0 0, Profeta 2-4 1-2 6, Hoffman 2-3 4-4 8. Totals 22-50 12-16 61.

Halftime—Long Island U. 45-22. 3-Point Goals—Long Island U. 4-19 (Johnson 3-6, Hicks 1-3, Mozee 0-1, Wisseh 0-3, Kotorobai 0-6), St. Francis 5-17 (Berry 2-5, Profeta 1-2, Surprenant 1-3, Nelson 1-4, Jukic 0-1, Sweetney 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Long Island U. 35 (Kotorobai 7), St. Francis 25 (Berry 7). Assists—Long Island U. 7 (Wisseh 3), St. Francis 15 (Nelson 4). Total Fouls—Long Island U. 21, St. Francis 20. A—1,137.

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