Sacred Heart Pioneers (8-11, 3-5 NEC) vs. Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash (6-13, 4-4 NEC)
Game #20 - Thursday, January 27, 2011 - 7:00 pm - Fairfield, Conn. - William H. Pitt Center (2,100)
The Storyline... The Sacred Heart Pioneers play host to the Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash on Thursday night looking for their first home win in Northeast Conference play this season. The Pioneers are coming off a 79-76 win at Wagner on Saturday where sophomore guard Shane Gibson led the way with a career-high 36 points, 27 coming in the second half. SHU is 3-5 in the NEC this season, tied for ninth but just two games out of second place. All three Sacred Heart wins in the league have come on the road as they look to snap a 0-4 start in the Pitt Center. The Red Flash have a four-game winning streak on the line Thursday night but are looking to find their first road win of the season. Saint Francis is 6-1 at home on the year but is 0-12 away from Loretto, Pennsylvania. The Red Flash are coming off a big win over first place Long Island last time out, 86-71.
Sacred Heart - SFPA All-Time Series... This is the 18th meeting all-time between the two schools with Sacred Heart holding a slight edge, 9-8. Saint Francis (PA) snapped a SHU seven-game winning streak in the series with a 73-68 win at home last February. The series dates back to the Pioneers first year in the Northeast Conference in 1999-2000.
The Coaches... Dave Bike (Sacred Heart '69) is in his 33rd year as the head coach of Sacred Heart. He has a career record of 503-454, ranking him 20th among active coaches. Only Jim Boheim of Syracuse as spent more time coaching at one institution. He led the Pioneers to eight NCAA Division II tournaments and his 1985-86 team won the national championship while finishing 30-4. Bike was named the national Coach of the Year by the NABC following the title game. Don Friday (Lebanon Valley '90) is in his third season at Saint Francis University having led the Red Flash to a 23-54 mark. Friday became the program's 20th head coach after spending five seasons at Lycoming College. He owns a 106-104 career record.
On the Upcoming Slate... The Pioneers continue their home stand Saturday afternoon hosting Robert Morris on "Pack the Pitt" day.
Scouting the Red Flash... The Saint Francis Red Flash come in the hottest team in the NEC, winners of four-straight. The Red Flash are 4-0 at home in the league but 0-4 on the road in the league coming in tied for sixth in the standings at 4-4. Sophomore guard Umar Shannon ranks ninth in the NEC in scoring averaging 14.4 points per game. Sophomore Will Felder is the team's top-rebounder and ranks sixth in the league averaging 6.9 boards per game. Felder also ranks sixth in blocked shots with 24 on the year.
Last Meeting with Saint Francis (PA)... Senior Devin Sweetney poured in 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, nailing 14 of 16 from the free line, to help Saint Francis hold off visiting Sacred Heart 73-68 on February 20, 2010. The Pioneers fell behind 15-1 in the first four minutes of the game before the offense began to click. SHU outscored the Red Flash 25-5 over the next 15 minutes to take a 26-20 lead. Sophomore Steve Zazuri hit a floater in the lane with 6:07 left in the period to give the Pioneers their first lead at 19-17. The Pioneers held a 27-26 lead at the intermission, holding the Red Flash to just 34 percent shooting in the half (8-23). Senior Liam Potter grabbed seven boards in the half for SHU, which was led by senior Ryan Litke's seven points. The Red Flash scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 33-27 lead before Chauncey Hardy stopped the bleeding with a driving layup. Hardy gave the Pioneers the lead back with a three with 15:01 to play, 39-38. The two teams traded the lead back and forth until the Red Flash opened up a four-point lead at 57-53 after a Sorena Orandi three with 8:02 to play. The Pioneers battled back and a pair of Corey Hassan free throws tied the game at 61-61 with 4:13 left. Sweetney put the Red Flash back on top with a layup and Cedric Latimer made it a four-point bulge again with a driving dunk and the Pioneers could not close the gap again, falling 73-68. Hassan led the Pioneers with 20 points to go along with eight rebounds.
Last Time Out... Sacred Heart sophomore Shane Gibson poured in a career-high 34 points to lead the Pioneers past Wagner College 79-76 last Saturday. Gibson hit 12-of-15 from the field, four-of-seven from three and six-of-seven at the line en route to his career night. The Pioneers as a team were lights out at the free throw line, making 30-of-34 at the charity stripe. The Pioneers put together a 14-2 run to pull in front 19-10 and built their lead to 36-30 at the break. Gibson went to work in the second half and exploded for 27 of his 34 points during the final 20 minutes as the Pioneers also continued their parade to the free throw line. Gibson's three at 16:07 put the Pioneers up 10, 44-34, just four minutes in. Wagner pulled within five, 49-44, at 11:33 but the Pioneer's again were able to extend their lead back to double digits. Gibson hit on back to back dribble drive lay-ups and the Pioneers led 60-50 with 7:48 to play. With SHU up 11 the Pioneers had a chance to extend the lead back to 13 at the free throw line but junior Stan Dulaire missed the front end of a one-and-one and in the blink of an eye, Wagner sliced the lead in half. The Seahawks trailed 64-58 at 5:18 and then put together a late spurt to take the lead late. Chris Martin buried a three and then hit a runner to pull his team within 72-69 with 2:56 left. Murray pulled Wagner within one at 1:16 thanks to another three-point play and then delivered the go ahead three from the top of the key to lead 76-74 with 46 seconds left. SHU came right down and went to Gibson and the sophomore guard delivered. Gibson got to the rim and made an acrobatic reverse lay-up, drawing a foul. He buried the free throw and SHU went back in front 77-76. After a Murray missed a jumper, Thompson buried both of his free throws to push the lead to three, 79-76, and Wagner's last second shot at a tie missed its mark to deliver the Pioneer win, snapping a three-game slide. Thompson added 13 points and six rebounds while Dulaire tied his season-high with 12 points. Evans scored all 10 of his points in the first half.
Pioneers in the NEC... Sacred Heart is in their 13th season of competition in the Northeast Conference in 2010-11. The Pioneers are 87-123 in conference play since joining the league in 1999-2000. SHU has qualified for the Northeast Conference Tournament five times but saw a streak of four-straight seasons making the postseason snapped last year. The Pioneers best finish in the league was second, a feat the accomplished twice, in 2006-07 and 2008-09. SHU has made two NEC Championship game appearances, falling to Central Connecticut State in 2007 and losing to Mount St. Mary's at home in 2008.
Shane Gibson's Career Night at Wagner... Guard Shane Gibson lit up the Staten Island campus to the tune of a career-high 34 points in leading SHU to a 79-76 win over the Seahawks, snapping a three-game losing streak. Gibson made 12 of 15 shots on the night, hitting four of six from behind the arc in the process. The sophomore guard was on fire in the second half, making nine-of-10 in scoring 27 of his 36 points. Gibson tied CCSU's Ken Horton for the top-scoring performance in the NEC this season. Horton dropped in 36 against Army earlier in the year. It was the first 30-point effort by a Pioneer this season and the first since Jerrell Thompson's 30 points at Quinnipiac last Feb. 6th. Corey Hassan had three 30-point efforts for the Pioneers last season including a 36-point night at Wagner on Jan. 30th.
Gibson's Scoring Binge Continues... R-Sophomore Shane Gibson shook off some early season offensive struggles and has found his shooting stroke and has led the team in scoring in nine of the last 11 games. Gibson enjoyed a stretch of five 20-point efforts in six games and is coming off a 34 point game where he scored 27 points in the second half. On four different occasions this season Gibson has set a new career high for scoring. The sophomore guard is shooting 52.0% (78-150) from the field and 48.8% (42-86) while averaging 20.7 points during the last 11 games. In eight NEC games this season, he is averaging 20.1 points. On the year, Gibson is third in the league in scoring (17.2 ppg) and has made a NEC best 54 three's on the year.
Senior Leader... Senior Jerrell Thompson is enjoying his best season statistically leading the Pioneers from his point guard position. Thompson is averaging 13.1 points per game this year, up from his 7.0 ppg last season. He is second on the team in rebounding at 4.5 per game and is the team's top assist man dishing 3.3 per game. At the free throw line, Thompson ranks among the league's best, making 85.1% (63-74) on the season good for fifth in the rankings. Defensively, Thompson has grown in to one of the Pioneer's top-defenders and is second in the NEC in steals this season with 37 (1.9 pg).