PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) If St. Francis (Pa.) has learned anything this year, it is that no opponent’s lead is too big to battle back from.
The Red Flash trailed by 16 late in the first half but it didn’t matter, as Ollie Jackson hit the go-ahead 3-pointer and two clinching free throws in St. Francis’ 73-68 victory over Rutgers Saturday.
Earl Brown had a game-high 23 points along with six rebounds for the Red Flash (6-4), who won their third straight. Jackson had 15 points, while Malik Harmon had 17 and Greg Brown 10. Ronnie Drinnon had six points and 16 rebounds.
The Scarlet Knights (6-5), who had won two straight, got 20 points and 12 rebounds from Kadeem Jack. Junior Etou scored 14 points, Bishop Daniels had 12 and Myles Mack added 10 points and eight assists.
”Our guys didn’t get rattled when we got down 16,” Red Flash coach Rob Krimmel said. ”We went to Europe this year and in our second game we were down 25. Against Lehigh we were down 18 (and lost by two). We understand it’s a long game. We don’t want to put ourselves in those holes but we’ve got experience playing from behind.”
St. Francis came from behind twice, as the game featured three substantial runs. Rutgers led 37-21 with 5:30 left in the half. The Flash then outscored the Knights 40-11 for a 61-48 lead. Rutgers responded with 15-1 run to take a 63-62 lead with 4:28 remaining.
”Coach always preaches that it’s a game of runs,” said Earl Brown, who had 23 points, six rebounds and three assists in 40 minutes. ”The main thing is just to make stops. You need consecutive stops, that’s what we all focused on and the offense will eventually come.”
Krimmel felt the keys were getting out on Rutgers shooters, and limiting the Knights to one shot as the Flash had a 38-35 rebounding advantage.
After Rutgers’ second run, Earl Brown made one of two foul shots and Jackson hit a 3-pointer to put St. Francis up 66-63.
Daniels responded with a three-point play to tie it with 51.3 seconds left. The Red Flash called timeout and then ran off 25 seconds before Jackson took a crosscourt pass and hit his go-ahead 3-pointer from the left side.
”We didn’t draw that play up,” Krimmel said. ”But we did want to have something with Ollie and Earl. We didn’t get the first look and the players just made a play. When a team defends your first action, second action or even third, you have to make a play. Ollie ended up taking the right shot at the right time.”
Daniels’ ensuing lay-up was followed by Greg Brown’s two foul shots to make it 71-68.
An offensive goaltending call on Daniels’ lay-up attempt was followed by Jackson’s foul shots with three seconds left.
”They got momentum a little bit,” Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. ”It snowballed and we weren’t tough enough to get stops, get rebounds, and we couldn’t guard them. They made shots all over the floor.”
St. Francis: The Red Flash won consecutive non-conference games on the road for the first time since beating Youngstown State and Morgan State Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2008.
Rutgers: Mack entered the game in the Top 10 in the Big Ten in steals (second, 2.7 per game), minutes played (third, 35.9) and assists (seventh, 4.4).
MID MAJOR ROARS
In its first meeting with Rutgers, St. Francis improved to 4-14 against teams that currently construct the Big Ten. It’s the Northeast Conference member’s first win over a Big Ten team other than Penn State, which it is 3-9 against.
Earl Brown, a senior forward, became the 39th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points. Brown now has 1,016 after reaching double digits for the 52nd time in his career.
Rutgers hosts Sacred Heart on Tuesday.
St. Francis is at NJIT on Dec. 30.