SFU men open NEC play with win over Mount St. Mary's
Loretto -- Senior Jamaal King (Salisbury, Md./Bishop O'Connell (Va.)) scored 25 points and junior Keith Braxton (Glassboro, N.J./Delsea) added 17 points and 17 rebounds as the Saint Francis men's basketball team (5-7, 1-0 NEC) put an end to a seven-game losing streak to Mount St. Mary's (3-11, 0-1 NEC) with an 80-69 victory in both teams' conference opener.
"The message to the team all week was start 1-0, so mission accomplished," said head coach Rob Krimmel. "Mount St. Mary's made a run at us and punched us in the mouth late in the first half and early into the second but we were able to keep our poise and lean on our experience to make winning plays down the stretch."
Saint Francis opened up a 30-15 lead after a Braxton layup with 6:44 in the first half before the Mount stormed back to cut the halftime deficit to seven. They would go on to score nine of the first 11 points of the second half, taking its first lead of the game, 40-38, after a Damian Chong Qui three-pointer with 17:27 remaining in the game. King provided a much-needed veteran presence down the stretch, scoring the next five points to put SFU back in front for good. He scored 15 of his 25 points over the first 15 minutes of the second half to close out the win.
First Half Summary
Redshirt junior Isaiah Blackmon (Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte) spurred SFU's hot start with five points on SFU's first four possessions as the Red Flash opened up a big lead. Saint Francis held the Mount to 5-of-20 from the field over the opening 13 minutes before the Mountaineers found their footing, pulling within seven to close the half on a buzzer-beating three from Jalen Gibbs. King led SFU with 10 first half points followed by freshman Myles Thompson (Camden, N.J./Camden) with nine.
Second Half Summary
King ignited the Red Flash with his stellar play before getting his teammates involved. Senior Andre Wolford (North Olmstead, Ohio/Saint Ignatius) was instrumental in helping SFU pull away, making three second-half triples over a 5:40 stretch to boost a one-point lead to a seven-point lead. The Red Flash held Mount to 11-30 (36.7%) from the field in the second half and iced the game from the free throw line.
Inside the Box Score
Saint Francis made 31-of-59 (52.5%) field goal attempts, marking its best percentage against a Division I opponent this season. On the contrary, Mount was held to 24-of-64 (37.5%) shooting, the second lowest total among SFU's 10 Division I opponents this season.
Saint Francis tied its season-best percentage from three-point range, knocking down 11-of-22 (50.0%). King went a perfect 4-for-4 from downtown including a 30-footer with the shot clock winding down in the first half. The Mountaineers connected on 10-of-33 from three-point range (30.3%).
Saint Francis struggled from the line, finishing 7-of-14 (50.0%). Mount St. Mary's wasn't much better at 11-of-21 (52.4%).
Mount St. Mary's won the turnover battle, 15-10, as points from turnovers favored the Mountaineers 17-4.
The Red Flash outrebounded Mount St. Mary's 42-31.
Points in the paint tilted towards SFU, 34-24.
SFU's seven steals led to a 22-9 advantage on fast break points.
Saint Francis led Mount St. Mary's for 37:23 of the 40 total minutes.
Saint Francis won its first conference opener since a 73-65 win over Wagner during the 2015-16 season.
King's 25-point night was his 22nd career game with 20 or more points and his fourth this season.
Braxton's 17 rebounds were his most since setting a career-high 19 as a freshman vs. Stony Brook on Dec. 17, 2016. He moves into 15th place on the school's all-time rebounding list with 715.
Senior Luidgy Laporal (Petit-Boutg, France/Harcum C.C.) was re-inserted into the starting lineup and rewarded Krimmel with six points and a career-high nine rebounds.
SFU is 5-0 at DeGol Arena this season.
All nine players who saw game action got into the scoring column.
The Red Flash are 14-6 over its last 20 conference games.
Saint Francis closes out the week at home vs. Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday, Jan. 5, at 7 p.m.