FAIRFIELD, CT (January 27, 2011) – The Sacred Heart Pioneers fell to 0-5 at home in the William H. Pitt Center in Northeast Conference play this season, losing to visiting Saint Francis (PA) 88-86 in overtime Thursday night. The Pioneers saw a 10-point second half lead erased but battled back to force the extra session thanks to a game-tying three-point play by sophomore Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT) with 15 seconds left. SHU fell behind quickly by seven in overtime and couldn't complete the comeback bid falling to 8-12 on the year and 3-6 in the NEC. The Red Flash pick-up their fifth-straight win as they improve to 7-13 and 5-4 in the league.
"We played hard, played our hearts out," commented senior Jerrell Thompson (Plainfield, NJ). "The way they shot the ball tonight, we have got to do a better job on the defensive end. Our offense is coming together, we scored more than enough points to win we just have to play better defense."
The Red Flash (7-13, 5-4 NEC) shot 50.0% in both halves and the overtime finishing the game 33-66 from the field. It marked the sixth time this season the Pioneers have allowed a team to shoot 50.0% or better from the field. Sophomore guard Umar Shannon scored a career-high 30 points to lead four Saint Francis players in double figures.
The Pioneers (8-12, 3-6 NEC) got matching 20-point efforts from Gibson and Thompson in the loss. Gibson finished with 22 points making eight-of-14 from the field. Thompson scored 21 and had eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. SHU shot 48.5% (32-66) as team.
"If you only looked at our line you would say we had a good game but the other team outplayed us," said head coach Dave Bike. "A couple extra loose balls helped make the difference. We felt good going into the overtime but it's not about feelings."
Saint Francis jumped out 12-4 in the opening four minutes thanks to three-of-four shooting from behind the three-point arc. The Red Flash held onto the lead and was up five before SHU put together a late first half run. Gibson went to work and scored on three-straight SHU possessions to fuel a 15-4 run that closed out the half. Down 35-30, Gibson hit a runner through traffic in the lane and then followed that with a long three from the wing to knot it up with 3:03 on the clock.
Thompson gave the Pioneers their first lead since 2-0 with a lay-up and Gibson followed with a three-point play. SHU ran into the locker room after junior Nick Greenbacker (Coventry, CT) hit a put-back to beat the buzzer to lead 43-39. The Pioneers ran their lead to double digits, 55-45, with 14:41 on the clock in the second half. Saint Francis never faltered and Shannon buried two-straight three's to answer and slice the lead to 55-51.
A three by Anthony Ervin at 11:45 pulled SFPA within a bucket, 58-56, and he would again get his team within striking distance with another three at 6:55 to trail 64-63. A Will Felder free throw at 5:35 tied the game at 66-66 before Gibson would give SHU its final lead of the night off the back end miss with a fast-break lay-in. Saint Francis tied in on a Scott Eatherton take to the basket at the five minute mark and took the lead as Jon Taylor hit underneath at 3:30, 70-68.
The Red Flash led by four, with 27 seconds left before Thompson came down and stuck a three to cut it to one. After Shannon buried both free throws to push the lead to three, Gibson when to work and delivered on a leaner, drawing the foul with 15 ticks left. He promptly drained the free throw and tied the game at 77-77. Shannon held for the potential game-winner but his shot missed the mark at the buzzer.
Saint Francis broke out of the gates in the overtime and had a seven-point lead before the Pioneers scored a point. Eatherton scored in the paint off the tip, followed by a three-point play by Shannon. Chris Johnson put back an Eatherton miss and the Red Flash had an 84-77 lead with 3:02 left. SHU battled back and pulled with two at 84-82 and 86-84 but couldn't close the gap. Shanon went one for two at the free throw line leaving a three-point lead, 87-84, with 18 second left but Thompson's three attempt to tie missed the mark and the Red Flash held on for the win.
"We had the momentum heading in to the overtime but they came out and hit that first shot and kept rolling," stated Thompson. "They were just hot."
The Pioneers will be back at home on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Robert Morris Colonials to the William H. Pitt Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 pm.