LORETTO - The calendar has turned to 2013, and perhaps the fortunes of the St. Francis University Red Flash have turned, too.
After losing its first 11 games, St. Francis finally hit the win column Thursday night by trimming Central Connecticut State, 67-60, in the Northeast Conference opener for both squads at the DeGol Arena.
A monster performance by sophomore forward Earl Brown keyed SFU's first win under rookie head coach Rob Krimmel. Brown, a 6-foot-6, 206-pounder from Philadelphia, scored 16 points and grabbed 25 rebounds in 35 minutes.
The 25 rebounds [seven offense, 18 defense] were the second most in NEC history, falling one short of the 26-rebound effort by Long Island's Carey Scurry against Marist on Feb. 2, 1983. ESPN reported that Brown's 25 boards were the most by a Division I player since Morgan State's Kevin Thompson picked off 25 in a 2009 game.
"Absolutely, it feels good," Krimmel said of the win. "The attitude and work ethic of the team have been good all season.
"We had a great talk after Cornell [79-67 loss] and said good wasn't good enough," Krimmel said. "We each have to bring a little more to the table. The makeup of our conference is that everyone's on the same playing field. We all started 0-0 [tonight]. There's not an at-large bid [to the NCAA] so our ultimate goal is to win the conference championship and, despite what our record was coming in tonight, our goal was still attainable."
During that talk after Cornell, Krimmel said he and his staff defined players' roles.
"We talked to Earl about rebounding and he obviously took that challenge," Krimmel said. "Talking about [roles] and doing them are two different things, and we had four great days of practice.
"Today was our opportunity to put those words into action."
The visiting Blue Devils led most of the first half until SFU's Umar Shannon nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 27-27 tie.
"We got down early, but stuck to the game plan and battled back," Krimmel said. "That shot by Umar was a big boost."
It was Earl Brown's show in the second half. He scored the first six points after intermission, contributed a couple of monster dunks later, and the Red Flash led by as many as 13 on three occasions.
"I saw the lane open and took it," Brown said, laughing about the dunks.
"We challenged our guys to get to the glass and create their own shots," Krimmel said. "It's nice to have Earl back and have him healthy. He got a concussion in late November after the Notre Dame game, and he's a big part of what we're going to do here."
Shannon finished with 19 points, Brown 16 and Ronnie Drinnon and Dominque Major 12 each.
"I figured most of my points would come from rebounds," the soft-spoken Brown said. "I figured I'd play hard defense and rebound.
"I'm an energy guy and like to get the guys pumped up," he said. "The win feels really good, but we're not going to celebrate because we have a long road ahead of us."
"The guys followed the scouting report and were focused," Krimmel noted. "They took away what Central Connecticut does really well. I'm proud of our guys. They defended and rebounded, and that's what won the game."
CCSU coach Howie Dickenman was impressed with SFU's play.
"We were outplayed," Dickenman said. "Their defense was outstanding. We couldn't penetrate against their man. Credit to Rob and his staff. They were well-prepared."
The CCSU coach praised the individual play of Brown.
"Terrific," Dickenman said. "He should be player-of-the-week in the league even if he doesn't get another point or another rebound Saturday [vs. Bryant.]
"It's about tenacity and wanting rebounds," Dickenman noted. "He thought every missed shot was his. His name was on the ball.
"The kid was a monster."
CCSU (4-8): Burbage 1-6 2-2 4, Peel 1-7 0-0 2, Vinales 9-22 3-3 23, McMillan 1-2 3-4 5, Hunter 4-15 7-11 18, Hurd 0-0 0-0 0, Efese 0-2 3-4 3, Allen 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 18-59 18-24 60.
ST. FRANCIS (PA.) (1-11): E. Brown 8-11 0-4 16, Mosley 1-3 1-2 3, Shannon 5-13 7-8 19, Whyatt 0-2 0-0 0, G. Brown 1-8 2-2 5, Major 4-10 0-0 12, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Ervin 0-2 0-0 0, Drinnon 4-4 4-4 12. Totals 23-53 14-20 67.
Halftime-Tied 27-27. 3-Point Goals-CCSU 6-17 (Hunter 3-8, Vinales 2-4, Allen 1-2, Burbage 0-3), St. Francis (Pa.) 7-24 (Major 4-9, Shannon 2-8, G. Brown 1-5, Ervin 0-1, Whyatt 0-1). Fouled Out-Hunter, Mosley. Rebounds-CCSU 33 (Hunter 10), St. Francis (Pa.) 43 (E. Brown 25). Assists-CCSU 8 (Vinales 3), St. Francis (Pa.) 15 (Shannon 8). Total Fouls-CCSU 15, St. Francis (Pa.) 19. A-581.