Saint Francis perseveres in overtime

LORETTO — Robert Morris once owned the rivalry against Saint Francis, but with a win in a thrilling game Saturday night, the Red Flash proved once again they are now in command of the rivalry.

Both teams made their share of big shots late, but the Flash prevailed in overtime at DeGol Arena, 89-83, for their fourth consecutive victory over Robert Morris. The Colonials had won 14 straight games against SFU until that streak ended two years ago.

“Tonight we took a big step forward,” Flash coach Rob Krimmel said. “We talk about taking little steps with this group, but tonight we took a big step.”

Krimmel was referring to his team stringing together back-to-back good wins, after the Flash also knocked off Wagner on the road Thursday, their first win there since 2006.

“We know that this group is talented, that they’ve got a lot of good basketball ahead of them,” Krimmel said of his very young team. “But to be able to be the team that we want to become, we’ve got to be able to put back-to-back performances together. … Tonight was the first time we were able to put a big win on the road Thursday and back that up with a big win here.”

The Flash and Colonials put on an entertaining show down the stretch, with each team coming up big in the clutch on numerous occasions. Saint Francis led 68-66 late in regulation, but Kavon Stewart tied the game and forced overtime on a driving bucket with 31 seconds left.

Isaiah Blackmon hit a 3-pointer and another basket a few seconds later for a 75-72 SFU lead in OT, only to be answered by a tying 3-pointer from Robert Morris’ Matty McConnell.

Georgios Angelou buried a 3-pointer for a 78-75 SFU lead, but again the Colonials answered on a three-point play by Stewart with 1:54 to go. Robert Morris grabbed an 81-79 lead on a 3 by Clive Allen with 1:03 left, and this time SFU answered on a three-point play by Jamal King.

That’s how the final few minutes went, with one team appearing to deliver a knockout blow, only to have the opponent get up and answer.

The Colonials reclaimed the lead on a driving bucket by Stewart with 39 seconds to go, but Stewart missed the free throw after getting fouled. That made it 83-82 RMU, and from that point on, the Flash had all the answers.

Blackmon buried a 3-pointer from the top right of the key with 25 seconds left for an 85-83 SFU lead. On the other end, McConnell saw his 3 attempt from the top of the key roll around the rim before dropping out.

Backup center Deivydas Kuzavas grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws to give the Flash (9-12, 6-4 NEC) an 87-83 cushion. The Colonials missed another 3-point attempt, and King sank two free throws to seal it with 2 seconds to go.

“It’s a growing moment for them, and I’m proud of the way the guys responded,” Krimmel said of his team’s grit late in the game. “You’ve got to experience it, and you’ve got to perform in those moments, and I thought they did tonight.”

The Colonials (7-16, 3-7) are having a rare down year, but they gave quite a battle Saturday after losing at home to SFU earlier this season by 20.

“Hard fought is nice, winning’s nicer,” RMU coach Andrew Toole said. “Give Saint Francis a ton of credit. They made some huge shots. They made some huge plays, and they made a couple more than we did.”

The Flash shot poorly to start, making only 6-of-22, and were just 1-of-7 from 3-point territory midway through the second half. But they caught fire late, making seven of their last 10 from deep.

“You’ve got to be able to take those things away from those guys because that’s something they do well and have done well for a majority of the season, even if they’ve not been shooting well of late,” Toole said. “For them to go seven of their last 10, it just kills you.”

Blackmon and Randall Gaskins Jr. had 20 points apiece for SFU, while Josh Nebo had 15 points and 10 rebounds. McConnell led the Colonials with 16 points, while Aaron Tate had 15 and Stewart 14.

With everyone now healthy and a month to go in the regular season, the young and talented Flash are looking to finish strong heading into the conference tournament.

“When we’re healthy, I feel like we can win the championship,” Blackmon said. “I feel like we’ve come pretty far in conference this year.”

ROBERT MORRIS (7-16): Tate 6-8 3-4 15, Still 2-10 3-4 7, D.Burke 4-11 0-0 8, Stewart 5-13 3-6 14, McConnell 5-12 2-2 16, Giles 1-3 0-1 2, B.Burke 3-7 1-1 7, Wright 3-4 0-0 9, Allen 2-4 0-0 5. Totals 31-72 12-18 83.

ST. FRANCIS (PA.) (9-12): Nebo 6-14 3-6 15, Gaskins 8-13 2-2 20, Blackmon 7-13 2-2 20, Braxton 2-9 5-5 9, King 2-12 7-9 11, Umezurike 0-0 0-0 0, Kuzavas 1-1 3-4 5, Angelou 2-4 3-3 9, Wolford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-66 25-31 89.

Halftime–Robert Morris 33-32. End Of Regulation–Tied 68. 3-Point Goals–Robert Morris 9-25 (McConnell 4-10, Wright 3-4, Allen 1-1, Stewart 1-2, D.Burke 0-1, Still 0-7), St. Francis (Pa.) 8-16 (Blackmon 4-5, Angelou 2-3, Gaskins 2-3, Braxton 0-2, King 0-3). Fouled Out–Braxton, Nebo, D.Burke. Rebounds–Robert Morris 30 (D.Burke, McConnell 6), St. Francis (Pa.) 45 (Braxton 13). Assists–Robert Morris 18 (Stewart 6), St. Francis (Pa.) 14 (King 6). Total Fouls–Robert Morris 23, St. Francis (Pa.) 20. A–1,510 (3,500).

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