Pioneers Open Pennsylvania Road Swing at Saint Francis Thursday Night

Forward Luis Montes

SACRED HEART vs. SAINT FRANCIS (PA)

Game 18 * January 12, 2012 * DeGol Arena * Loretto, PA * 7:00 pm

Full Set of Game Notes

The Storyline... The Sacred Heart men's basketball team opens their only road trip during January on Thursday night facing the Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash.  The Pioneers have dropped three-straight Northeast Conference games coming in after getting dealt a 99-84 loss at home to St. Francis (NY) last Saturday.  SHU is searching for answers defensively after the Terriers to shoot 58.2% including 15-of-27 from three in the loss.  The Red Flash are looking to end a five-game slide but are 2-2 in the league with wins over Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson on their ledger.

Sacred Heart - Saint Francis (PA) All-Time Series...  This is the 19th meeting all-time between the two schools with the series tied 9-9.  Saint Francis (PA) snapped a SHU seven-game winning streak in the series with a 73-68 win at home in February of 2010 and made it two-straight with an 88-86 overtime win in Fairfield in the only meeting between the two teams last season.  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 34th year as the head coach of Sacred Heart. He has a career record of 513-471, ranking him 20th among active coaches. Only Jim Boheim of Syracuse has 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 fourth season at Saint Francis University having led the Red Flash to a 29-74 mark.  Friday became the program's 20th head coach after spending five seasons at Lycoming College.  He owns a 112-123 career record.

Up Next...  This two-game Western Pennsylvania road swing continues on Saturday night at Robert Morris.  Tip-off is 7 pm.

Quick Hits...

- - Sacred Heart has shot 50.0% or better six times this season but is just 2-4 in those games. SHU beat Lafayette and New Hampshire making 50.0% of their shots but lost at Rutgers (51.5%), vs. Lipscomb (54.5%), at Boston College (50.9%), and at home to St. Francis-NY (51.7%). In three of those losses, SHU allowed their opponent to hit 50.0% or better (RU-63.0%; BC-55.3%, SFNY-59.2%).

- Offensively, the Pioneers have scored 80 or more points four times this season but are just 1-3 in those games (L 82-80 ot at CCSU; W 84-79 vs. Lafayette; L vs. LIU Brooklyn 87-81; L vs. St. Francis-NY 99-84).

- Defensively, the Pioneers gave up their most points in an NEC game for the first time since the 2007-08 season in the 99-84 loss to St. Francis-NY.  SHU lost 100-87 at home to Central Connecticut State in the season finale on March 2, 2008.  On the year, SHU has allowed 80 or more points seven times and on three occasions given up 90 or more points.

- Over his last three games, sophomore Chris Evans has set a new career-high for points twice.  Evans netted 19 in the win at New Hampshire and is coming off a 24 point afternoon in the loss to St. Francis (NY).  He made eight-of-12 from the field and eight-of-11 at the free throw line in the loss.

- Junior Shane Gibson saw his streak of five-straight 20-point games ended against St. Francis (NY), finishing with 15 points against the Terriers.  Gibson scored 22 three times on the streak and posted 28 points against LIU Brooklyn, his second highest point total of the season (32 at CCSU).   He averaged 23.8 ppg over the five games and has now climbed to third in the NEC in scoring (19.5 ppg).
- Gibson has found his stroke from behind the three-point line and ranks third in the NEC making 41.7% (40-96) from downtown on the season.  Over his last six games, he is 22-of-46 from three (47.8%).  He finished six-for-nine effort against LIU Brooklyn, matching his career-high for three's in a game.  He previously hit six treys at Providence and at home against Monmouth, both last season.

- Gibson also notched his first career double double in the win over New Hampshire, collecting a career-high 10 rebounds to go with his 22 points.

- Junior Justin Swidowski had a career-night in the loss to LIU Brooklyn.  Swidowski made 10-of-18 from the field including a season-best three-of-six from three on his way to 23 points.  Swidowski's previous high was a 21 point effort at CCSU.  He followed that up with an 18 point, eight rebound effort in the loss to SFNY.

- Home for the New Year - SHU will set up camp at home in the William H. Pitt Center for six of their eight games in the month of January.  Back-to-back losses to LIU and SFNY have the Pioneers just 3-3 at home this season thus far.  SHU finished 5-7 at home last year.

- Injury Bug - Last Thursday marked the first game this season the Pioneers did not play at least 10 players in a game.  SHU continues to be without the services of senior guard Steve Zazuri and saw fellow senior and captain Stan Dulaire forced to the bench with a shoulder injury.  Dulaire returned against St. Francis (NY) to play nine minutes off the bench but starting point guard Evan Kelley was forced out of the line-up after suffering an ankle injury in the loss to LIU.

- The Pioneers as a team are first in the NEC in assists and had a 21 assist effort against LIU Brooklyn.  SHU averages 15.0 helpers per game and is led by freshman guard Phil Gaetano who ranks seventh in the NEC in assist to turnover ratio (65 a/40 to) and ninth in assists (3.82 apg).

Last Meeting with Saint Francis (PA)...   The Sacred Heart Pioneers lost in overtime to Saint Francis (PA) 88-86 at home on January 27, 2011 in the only meeting last season between the two schools.  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 guard Shane Gibson with 15 seconds left.  SHU fell behind quickly by seven in overtime and couldn't complete the comeback bid falling to the Red Flash who picked-up their fifth-straight win.  The Red Flash shot 50.0% in both halves and the overtime finishing the game 33-66 from the field.  It marked the sixth time last season the Pioneers allowed a team to shoot 50.0% or better from the field.  SFPA guard Umar Shannon scored a career-high 30 points to lead four Saint Francis players in double figures.  The Pioneers got matching 20-point efforts from Gibson and point guard Jerrell 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.

Facing the Red Flash - Last 10 Meetings (SHU, 7-3)...

1/27/11    SFPA 88     SHU 86 (ot)    Pitt Center

2/20/10    SFPA 73     SHU 68           DeGol Arena

2/14/09    SHU 72      SFPA 57         DeGol Arena

1/8/09      SHU 76      SFPA 60         Pitt Center

2/16/08    SHU 73      SFPA 57         Pitt Center

1/20/07    SHU 72      SFPA 64         DeGol Arena

12/9/06    SHU 103    SFPA 91         Pitt Center

1/21/06    SHU 65      SFPA 54         DeGol Arena

12/10/05  SHU 74      SFPA 72         Pitt Center

2/28/05    SFPA 77     SHU 60           Pitt Center

Scouting the Red Flash...  The Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash are 2-2 in NEC play but come off road losses at Central Connecticut State, 69-58, and Bryant, 59-56, last week.  The Red Flash are 3-12 overall, beating Monmouth and FDU at home to start league play, and American at home in early December.  SFPA is near the bottom of the league in scoring, averaging just 59.3 ppg, but rank second among league leaders in field goal percentage (.455).  Sophomore forward Scott Eatherton leads the way making a league best 66.7% (80-120) of his shots to average 14.2 points per game.  Eatherton is also the team's top-rebounder, ranking 11th in the NEC with 6.4 rebounds per game.  Junior guard Anthony Ervin is the team's top-three point threat, knocking down 38.6% (17-44) on the year, 11th in the NEC rankings.  Ervin is averaging 10.8 ppg.  The Red Flash lost their leading scorer in junior Umar Shannon who suffered a knee injury in game one and was lost for the season.  Shannon was a second team All-NEC pick last season after averaging 15.8 ppg.

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