LORETTO - The second half hasn't been kind to the St. Francis women's basketball team early in Northeast Conference action.
Fortunately, the Red Flash show up just long enough to recover.
Even despite failing to hit a field goal for over nine minutes during the second half, St. Francis held on to beat Central Connecticut, 67-62, Monday night at DeGol Arena.
"Whether it's a mental issue or a physical issue, we struggle with our intensity coming out of halftime," St. Francis coach Joe Haigh said. "We know it, we talk about it. But we come out and just lose our minds.
"Central was fighting for their lives. They're such a physical team. They hit you everwhere. I think that wore us down and might have gotten into our heads a little bit, unfortunately."
The Red Flash (7-6, 2-0 NEC) found some momentum to close the first half on a 16-4 run for a 12-point halftime lead. They extended their lead to 16 in the opening minutes of the second half, but went cold almost immediately.
St. Francis went 9:13 without a field goal (0-for-5) and turned the ball over 11 times during the stretch.
But during that time, the Blue Devils (6-7, 0-2) only cut the Red Flash lead by nine.
St. Francis had 18 second-half turnovers after only five miscues in the first 20 minutes.
"The second half was a whole different team, energy-wise," Central Connecticut coach Beryl Piper said. "We're going to win games if we play with that energy level for 40 minutes instead of just 20 minutes. I'm just disappointed we couldn't make the big play when we needed it."
"Central is a good team," redshirt junior forward Shene Fleming said. "I think we had a few mental let-downs that gave them confidence. We brought it back. That's what matters."
Brittany Lilley ended the drought with a 3-pointer from the corner - her only field goal of the game - to give St. Francis a 53-46 lead with 6:47 to play.
"The timing of it was huge," Haigh said of Lilley's bucket. "She has a knack for making plays when you need them. At the end of close games, she just has something special about her."
"That was a big basket," Piper said. "That crushes you. We were still in the game, but that was a huge basket."
Central Connecticut got to within two with 1:31 remaining, but free throws from Kia Gibbs, Alli Williams and Lilley sealed the win.
Williams had a team-high 20 points and added 13 rebounds to go over the 600-rebound mark for her career, collecting her eighth double-double of the season.
"Another typical Alli game," Haigh said. "She played hard the whole time. She made incredible individual plays to help us win the game - steals in the open floor, a blocked shot on a layup the would have gone in, and rebounding."
Jaclyn Babe led the Blue Devils with 25 points, Kaley Watras had 12 points, and Jessica Babe had seven points, six rebounds and eight assists.
The Babe sisters scored or assisted on all but one field goal in the second half and all but three field goals for the game.
"We definitely need scoring," Piper said. "Scoring is definitely the area in which we talk about. Our defense is going to keep us in games, but offensively we have to have kids score."
Gibbs finished with 13 points, and Fleming notched her first double-double of the season with 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Fleming started the game on a hot streak, scoring 10 of the Flash's first 21 points.
"I was taking it baseline," Fleming said. "I just tried to be aggressive, even on my teammates' shots. I just tried to go to work in the post, put my head down and get some good shots."
"It was a great performance," Haigh said of Fleming. "This is what she has been working for. Getting that kind of production from Shene will be huge for us."
CENTRAL CONNECTICUT (6-7, 0-2): Thomas 3-9 0-1 6, Daamen 1-1 0-0 2, Ja. Babe 8-18 7-8 25, Watras 3-11 5-6 12, Je. Babe 3-6 1-2 7, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Arbogast 2-6 0-0 4, Makins 0-0 0-0 0, Harrington 0-0 0-2 0, Fisher 2-6 2-3 6. Totals 22-57 15-22 62.
ST. FRANCIS (7-6, 2-0): Fleming 6-12 1-3 13, Williams 5-12 7-10 20, Gibbs 3-9 7-11 13, Lilley 1-7 4-4 7, Hayward 1-2 0-0 3, Taylor 1-2 0-0 3, Sparks 2-3 0-0 4, Perkins 0-0 0-0 0, Keegan 0-3 1-2 1, Doogan 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 20-52 20-30 67.
Halftime-St. Francis 42-28. 3-point goals-Central Connecticut 3-9 (Ja. Babe 2-4, Watras 1-4, Je. Babe 0-1), St. Francis 7-18 (Williams 3-5, Hayward 1-1, Taylor 1-2, Doogan 1-2, Lilley 1-6, Gibbs 0-1, Sparks 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Central Connecticut 31 (Je. Babe 6), St. Francis 45 (Fleming 14). Assists-Central Connecticut 17 (Je. Babe 8), St. Francis 13 (Lilley 5). Total fouls-Central Connecticut 20, St. Francis 17. A-571.