Braxton’s big night leads SFU

Guard’s triple-double a very rare feat in NEC

LORETTO — Keith Braxton made Saint Francis history Thursday night, or at least as much history as anyone can find.

Braxton became the first Red Flash player ever to record a verified triple-double as he had 12 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and dished out 10 assists in a 74-60 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson at DeGol Arena.

“Just being kind of a do-it-all guy, it’s satisfying,” Braxton, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard and one of the top all-around players in the Northeast Conference, said with a little smile.

Braxton’s historic feat comes with some explaining.

The NCAA only started recording triple-doubles in 1997-98, and no Saint Francis player ever had one since then. In fact, Braxton is just the ninth Northeast Conference player to post a triple-double in the 20 years.

Saint Francis officials have no way to go back and research full box scores throughout the program’s storied history, so if someone did indeed have a triple-double, there doesn’t seem to be a way to verify it.

Furthermore, assists only became an official NCAA statistic during the 1983-84 season, so some of the school’s stars from long ago — Norm Van Lier, Kevin Porter and the great Maurice Stokes — would not have recorded stats in that category.

“Keith’s been wanting a triple-double,” teammate Jamaal King said before interrupting himself and saying, “Well, congrats first — but he’s been wanting that triple double.”

Braxton was such a stat stuffer that he achieved the triple-double with 12:34 left in the game. He already had the points and rebounds covered, and with nine assists, he looked up on a fast break and saw King open on the right baseline for a 3-pointer. Swish.

“Who else but Jamaal King in the corner?” Braxton said as he was sitting next to his buddy during the postgame interviews. “He pointed at me because he knew what it was.”

“He told me he had nine, and I ran like heck to the corner,” King said.

Saint Francis coach Rob Krimmel has watched Braxton develop such a good all-around game that it wasn’t a big surprise he recorded the triple-double. Braxton had been close to doing so in the past, with 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists at Bryant on Dec. 31.

“The stats speaks for themselves,” Krimmel said of Braxton’s abilities.

Braxton was named NEC player of the week in back-to-back weeks last month, but he had been struggling of late, shooting just 29.8 percent in the previous five games before Thursday. He made only 4-of-13 shots against FDU, but he did everything else he could on both ends of the floor to help his team win.

“He hasn’t been playing his best basketball lately, but I know this triple-double will get him back on track,” King said.

King, who led the team with 17 points, came up big down the stretch with clutch buckets to help the Red Flash (13-9, 7-4) close the game strong. When he hit the 3 on Braxton’s 10th assist, it gave SFU a 56-43 lead with 12:34 remaining, but FDU (7-15, 4-7) fought back and pulled with 61-59 inside of five minutes.

King had a big answer with a deep 3-pointer from the left wing, and the next time down he scored a layup on the break to push the margin back up to 66-59 with 3:28 left. That was pretty much the ballgame as Saint Francis closed on a 13-1 run after FDU had closed within two.

“I thought it was one our of better (ones),” Krimmel said when asked about having a complete 40-minute effort. “I don’t know if it was our best (of the season), but since the calendar turned to 2018 I thought it was one of our best.”

Freshman center Mark Flagg had a big game for the Flash with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Flagg just moved into the starting lineup, replacing fellow freshman Deivydas Kuzavas, and has a solid skill set for a big man, although the 6-9 center is a slight 195 pounds.

“The biggest thing about Mark is he’s not afraid of the moment,” Krimmel said. “He continues to grow because he’s coachable, because he plays hard.”

Game notes: The game aired nationally on CBS Sports Network. … All five SFU starters scored in double figures, with Andre Wolford scoring 15 and Randall Gaskins Jr. 10. … Braxton’s 10 assists marked the first time an SFU player reached 10 since Chris Johnson on Feb. 5, 2011 against Bryant. … Kaleb Bishop led FDU with 18 points. … Knights coach Greg Herenda declined to be interviewed after the game. … A video of Saint Francis great Mike Iuzzolino was played before the game to honor him for being selected to the NEC Hall of Fame this week.

FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON (7-15): Holloway 4-7 2-4 10, Williams 3-5 1-1 7, Bishop 9-12 0-1 18, Jenkins 4-18 0-0 9, Edge 1-10 3-3 5, Rhoden 0-0 0-0 0, Beciri 2-5 0-0 4, Morgan 2-10 0-0 4, Schroback 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, McNamara 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 26-71 6-9 60.

SAINT FRANCIS (13-9): Flagg 7-10 3-6 17, Gaskins 5-7 0-0 10, King 6-12 2-2 17, Braxton 4-13 3-5 12, Wolford 5-9 2-3 15, Kuzavas 0-0 0-0 0, Harmon 0-3 0-0 0, Meredith 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 28-56 10-16 74.

Halftime–Saint Francis 36-34. 3-Point Goals–Fairleigh Dickinson 2-19 (McNamara 1-3, Jenkins 1-7, Bishop 0-1, Beciri 0-1, Morgan 0-3, Edge 0-4), St. Francis 8-14 (King 3-4, Wolford 3-6, Braxton 1-2, Meredith 1-2). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Fairleigh Dickinson 34 (Holloway, Bishop 9), St. Francis 38 (Braxton 16). Assists–Fairleigh Dickinson 12 (Edge 4), St. Francis 20 (Braxton 10). Total Fouls–Fairleigh Dickinson 17, St. Francis 13. A–742 (3,500).

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