LORETTO - With wins in just five of its first 17 games, the St. Francis University women's basketball team has endured some rough sledding so far this winter.
But second-year St. Francis coach Joe Haigh had plenty to be pleased about with his team in Monday night's 81-66 Northeast Conference victory over Mount St. Mary's at the DeGol Arena.
Led by former Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School standout Alli Williams, who led all scorers with 25 points, St. Francis' offense enjoyed a potent night.
The Red Flash boasted offensive balance, with five players in double figures. Along with the 6-foot senior forward Williams' game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds, junior guard Alexa Hayward added 15 points, senior center Rebecca Keegan added 12 points and nine rebounds, and sophomore guard Aisha Brock and freshman guard Bridget Murphy tossed in 11 points apiece.
Haigh was pleased with his team's effort on the boards, where St. Francis fashioned a 46-36 edge in rebounds, and about his squad's defensive effort that allowed an opponent a season-low 66 points.
"It was a great win,'' said Haigh, whose team improved to 5-12 overall and 3-3 in the conference. "I felt like everybody who came into the game played hard and continued to push. We rebounded well on the offensive glass, and we played defense very well, holding an opponent to a season low. We've generally had to try to outscore [opponents] this season, but we didn't have to do that tonight.''
Leading by just four points, 38-34 at halftime, St. Francis went on a 17-6 run at the beginning of the second half to open a 57-44 lead.
Three-pointers by Willi-ams and Hayward, and consecutive buckets from the paint by the 6-foot-2 Keegan keyed the uprising.
"The key for us tonight was a team effort,'' said Hayward, a product of Blackhawk High School in Beaver Falls. "We usually rely on Alli [Williams], but other people stepped up tonight, and that freed Alli up even more.''
Williams was happy that St. Francis, which saw its lead cut to 66-60 with 5:15 remaining, was able to close strong, carrying the duration of the half, 15-6. The 5-foot-6 Brock, who came to St. Francis from Jacksonville, Fla., got free inside to contribute a couple key buckets down the stretch, boosting the SFU lead to 10 points with just over two minutes remaining.
"I'm happy that we were able to get a good lead, and keep it,'' Williams said. "We maintained our composure, and stopped them on defense.''
Keegan was a valuable asset scoring from the low blocks for St. Francis, but she was the first to offer that she had plenty of help.
"I couldn't have done it without all the assists from my teammates,'' she said. "This was a good team win.''
Mount St. Mary's, which has now lost eight straight games to St. Francis dating back to 2008, was led by senior forward Jessie Kaufman's 17 points.
St. Francis is at Fairleigh Dickinson Saturday.
Syndey Henderson (16), Jacqueline Brewer (13), and Jody Chickey (10) were also in double figures for Mount St. Mary's, which dropped to 8-9 overall and 3-2 in conference.
"We got open shots, but we didn't make enough shots,'' said Mount St. Mary's coach Bryan Whitten, whose team was just 5-of-24 from beyond the 3-point arc and 23 of 56 from the floor overall. "We shot 24 [three-point shots], but we needed to make more of them.''
MOUNT ST. MARY'S (66): Grossett 4-6 0-0 8, Kaufman 6-16 2-2 17, Christie 1-5 0-0 2, Henderson 5-14 4-4 16, Brewer 5-12 3-3 13, Leftwich 0-1 0-0 0, Powell 0-0 0-0 0, Chickey 3-7 4-6 10, Carney 0-1 0-0 0, Arthur-Williams 0-1 0-0 0. Totals - 24-63 13-15 66.
ST. FRANCIS (81): Archer 1-2 0-0 2, Williams 9-20 5-8 25, Brock 5-11 0-1 11, Hayward 5-9 2-4 15, Bethel 0-1 0-0 0, Blaine 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor 1-4 0-0 3, Stokes 0-0 0-0 0, Alllison 0-0 0-0 0, Murphy 3-6 4-6 11, Keegan 6-10 0-0 12, Phillips 1-4 0-0 2. Totals - 31-68 11-19 81.
Halftime-St. Francis, 38-34. 3-point goals-Mount St. Mary's 5-24 (Grossett 0-1, Kaufman 3-10, Christie 0-3, Henderson 2-5, Brewer 0-5, Leftwich 0-0, Powell 0-0, Chickey 0-2, Carney 0-0, Arthur-Williams 0-0); St. Francis 8-23 (Archer 0-0, Williams 2-7, Brock 1-5, Hayward 3-6, Bethel 0-0, Blaine 0-0, Taylor 1-3, Stokes 0-0, Allison 0-0, Murphy 1-2, Keegan 0-0, Phillips 0-0). Assists-Mount St. Mary's 13 (Christie 5); St. Francis 16 (Williams 3, Brock 3, Hayward 3, Murphy 3). Rebounds-Mount St. Mary's 36 (Grossest 6, Henderson 6); St. Francis 46 (Keegan 11).
Records: Mount St. Mary's (8-10 overall, 3-3 in the Northeast Conference); St. Francis (5-12 overall, 3-3 in the Northeast Conference). A-737.