LORETTO – Heading into Monday’s game, the Bryant women’s basketball team had connected on 64 3-point shots the entire season. For a line of demarcation, St. Francis junior Jessica Kovatch made 77 3-pointers.
That trend continued Monday at DeGol Arena, as the Bulldogs went an unimpressive 2-for- 11 from 3-point land, while Kovatch nearly tied the single-game record for 3-pointers by dialing up nine of her own as St. Francis won 87-69.
“When she’s hot, Jessica doesn’t miss,” said freshman Leah Morrow. “She was hitting threes all day.”
Not only did Kovatch take more 3-pointers (15) than the entire Bryant team, but the Bulldogs struggles on offense were more than just beyond the arc.
Bryant also committed more turnovers (27) than it did with made field goals (24).
But the quirky stats don’t stop there. The Red Flash also attempted more shots (88) than they did points. It’s a philosophy that St. Francis coach Joe Haigh has had for a long time. With so much skill on the floor and the ability to shoot the ball, higher volume means more points, regardless of shooting percentage, according to Haigh.
“I’d rather have 98 shots if we could,” he said. “In the last two and a half minutes of the fourth quarter, I got upset. We got in transition and threw a couple of bad passes away. Obviously I want to take good shots. We can still take a lot of shots; it wouldn’t add that much more time to make that one extra pass. We attack you constantly.”
Haigh took it one step further, equating a slower pace to football.
“Very few times do you have a chance to relax mentally,” he said. “Which you’re allowed to do, if the point guard walks the ball up the floor and takes four or five seconds, then everybody rests. Then it becomes a lot like football when you all huddle up and call a play then eight seconds of action and then we go hang out and watch a commercial. We don’t want that.”
That hasn’t been the case for St. Francis this season. There have been times when opponents have tried to slow the Red Flash down, but have been unsuccessful. Bryant seemed up to the task, breaking the St. Francis full-court pressure with ease several times, but couldn’t convert on open shots.
“They’re always one of the top four or five teams in the league; their post players always do a great job,” said Haigh. “They were prepared for our press and did a good job of getting through it even though we caused 27 turnovers. We got the tempo of game where we wanted it to be.”
Playing in a high-tempo system can be an adjustment for some, especially experiencing college basketball for the first time. But several freshmen have answered the call, including Morrow and Karson Swogger, who combined to provide 39 minutes for St. Francis off the bench. Sure, there can be a learning curve. But as Haigh said after Saturday’s game, there are no longer any freshmen on the team in his eyes.
With the win, St. Francis has now won its last four games, dating back to a buzzer-beater loss at Robert Morris Jan. 13. The Red Flash will have a shot at redemption Saturday at home, as they will face the Colonials in a game that was picked up by ESPN3, looking to hand Robert Morris its first conference loss.
“First playoff game,” said Haigh. “I noticed a couple of people in the stands Monday that came to the Mount St. Mary’s game for the first time.
“They told me how much fun they had, how much fun it is to watch us play and in person. They came on Saturday again. The way we play is very emotional. It always seems that there are some highlight plays that are pretty exciting.”