LORETTO, Penn – The Sacred Heart Pioneers finished their four game road trip winless after a 68-66 setback to the Saint Francis Red Flash Saturday afternoon at the DeGol Center. After winning their first home game of the season on January 11th, the Pioneers have dropped four consecutive games on the road to fall to 1-5 in the conference this season.
Chris Evans (Stamford, CT) led the way for Sacred Heart with 18 points, making 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Freshman De'Von Barnett (Waldorf, MD) put in 14 points for Sacred Heart on 6-of-12 shooting, while senior Mostafa Abdel Latif (Alexandria, Egypt) chipped in 13 points and 8 rebounds.
Sacred Heart grabbed 16 offensive rebounds but struggled finishing from arounds the rim, shooting 37.1 percent (23-of-62) from the field.
Saint Francis had four different players in double figures, with Earl Brown leading the way with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Ronnie Drinnon, Dominique Major, and Ben Millaud-Meunier all joined Brown in double figures. SFU shot 51.1 percent (24-of-47) from the field
The Pioneers got off to a nice start thanks to aggressive play from Evans. The Connecticut native started the game getting into the lane and banking one home for SHU's first points. He then put in a lay-up off a Barnett steal to give SHU an early 6-2 lead.
Louis Montes (Brockton, MA) also gave SHU a lift early in the first, scoring five consecutive points to give SHU a 15-9 lead with 12:24 left. Montes banked in a lefty lay-up and then made a three-ball from the left side.
The Pioneers stretched their lead all the way to ten points after Barnett knocked down a jumper with 8:05 remaining. From there, Saint Francis closed out half on a 17-6 run. Back-to-back threes from Ollie Jackson and Malik Harmon kick started the run for Saint Francis. Dominique Major also knocked down a long ball to force a SHU timeout and cut the lead to 31-30.
Sacred Heart made just 2 shots from the field in the final 7:24 of the first half. Barnett knocked down one of the two with 42 seconds left to cut the lead to one, 34-33 at halftime.
Sacred Heart and Saint Francis battled back and forth for much of the second half. Abdel Latif put in a couple nice hook shots to get SHU started in the second. It was consistently a one point lead either way for much of the half, until Dominique Major made a big transition three to put SFU up 51-47 with 6:57 left in the game. Malik Harmon found Major in the corner for the open trifecta.
The Pioneers kept it close until the final buzzer but a few missed free throws and inability to get stops down the stretch allowed SFU to close the door.
Gaetano knocked down a big three to get SHU within one at 61-60. After getting a defensive stop, the Pioneers had a chance to take the lead. Evans missed a reverse lay-up with 30 seconds left that stayed on the rim for a millisecond but did not fall.
Saint Francis closed SHU out with clutch foul shooting down the stretch. The Red Flash made 9-of-10 from the free throw line in the final 1 minute and 16 seconds of the game. Ben Millaud Meunier made 5-of-6 from the line in the final 17 seconds, with the only miss coming intentionally with a two point lead with .9 seconds left. Barnett grabbed the miss but a final heave did not make it to the basket.
Evans and Kelley both made just one of two from the free throws in the final 1:38 of the game when trying to cut the SFU lead to one.
Sacred Heart returns home for the first time in two weeks to play host to the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers Wednesday night in the Pitt Center. The game will be broadcasted live on MSG and Fox College Sports.
Notes: Phil Gaetano has made a three-pointer in 11 consecutive games. This is the Pioneers third losing streak of at least four games this season.