The Red Flash dug themselves into a very deep first-half hole on Thursday night – one from which they could not extricate themselves.

St. Francis knew that Central Connecticut was second in the Northeast Conference and would provide a tremendous test at the Stokes Center.

However, the Red Flash fell behind the Blue Devils, 43-16 at halftime. Down by 29 points, the Flash charged back in the second half, narrowing the margin to seven points, 63-56, after sophomore Umar Shannon connected on two free throws with 4:43 remaining.

St. Francis scored 63 points in the second half, but it could get no closer than seven points as Central shot well from the free-throw line, leading to a

86-79 victory

“For the second night in a row, we’ve come out and tried to play like bankers,” St. Francis coach Don Friday said after the loss. “White collar, our shirt on real nice and pretty, and not getting down and dirty. We did not really compete and play hard.”

The Red Flash were down

22-0 at Quinnipiac in a loss that ended their five-game winning streak, and on Thursday, they fell behind 26-5 in the first

11 minutes and 14 seconds of the game.

St. Francis sophomore Umar Shannon led the Red Flash in scoring with 27 points, but he scored 21 of those points in the second half. How did the Blue Devils put the clamps on him and the Red Flash in the first half?

“They played with more moxie than us,” Shannon said about the Blue Devils. “They were more vocal than us, and we were down on ourselves in the first half, just like we did at Quinnipiac. We just have to get better at it. We have to fight our way through it.”

Friday pointed to one play in the first half that showed how determined Central was and how woefully his team had played in the first 20 minutes.

With the score 41-16 and

1.9 seconds left on the clock, the Blue Devils were awarded the ball under St. Francis’ basket.

Central coach Howie Dickenman called a timeout and designed a play. Chris Baskerville threw a long pass to Ken Horton under the Blue Devils basket, and he laid in a bucket for a 43-16 advantage.

Friday said that it was a “microcosm” of what went writing with the Red Flash in the first half.

Dickenman said that while his team played outstanding basketball in the first half, it did not in the second when it was outscored 63-43.

“We took them out of what they wanted to do in the first half,” Dickenman said. “But something that (Friday) said got them going. We took a snooze (in the second half), and when you’re snoozing, you’re losing.”

The Red Flash fell to 7-15 overall with the loss, 5-6 in the NEC. That leaves St. Francis tied for seventh place in the NEC with St. Francis, N.Y.

Eight teams advance to the conference tournament.

The conference setup makes Saturday’s game against Bryant very important on a day when the university holds its sports hall of fame inductions.

In addition to Shannon’s

25 points, Will Felder added

18 and Chris Johnson 11. Johnson also added eight assists, and Felder led the Red Flash in rebounds with eight.

Central Connecticut staved off the comeback with some excellent free-throw shooting down the stretch, hitting 13 of their last 14 free throws. They finished the game hitting 35 of 45 free throws.

Robby Ptacek led the Blue Devils with 26 points, 11 of 13 in free throws, and Shemik Thompson added 23 with 14 of 18 free throws.

The St. Francis-Bryant game will be played at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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