Mount blows 19-point lead, falls to St. Francis, 71-64

Pressure sends offense into second-half freeze

January 16, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

EMMITSBURG -- In a matter of minutes, the forecast for Mount St. Mary's changed from sunny and bright to gloomy and stormy last night.

The Mount appeared to have Northeast Conference rival St. Francis (Pa.) well in command, but then squandered a 19-point lead and absorbed an ugly 71-64 defeat before 1,811 fans at Knott Arena.

"This was not an auspicious way to start a five-game homestand," said the Mount's venerated coach, Jim Phelan. "How can you let a lead like that get away? It's very disappointing to put it mildly."

Mount St. Mary's (2-10, 1-2) was rolling 48-29 after a Konata Springer breakaway dunk with 15: 55 to play in the game. From that point until the Red Flash had a 63-57 advantage with 38 seconds on the clock, the Mount went 2-for-16 from the field.

The turnaround was drastic after St. Francis coach Bobby Jones sent his team into what looked like a desperation press at the time. All of a sudden, it looked like a new game.

Although the Red Flash rarely forced turnovers, the defense disrupted the Mount St. Mary's offensive scheme while St. Francis shooters abruptly turned hot. At one point, the Red Flash sank seven straight field goals, including two three-pointers, until a four-point play by Rob Kimmel changed the lead.

"We showed a lot of character and never surrendered," said Jones. "I thought our pressure got us jump-started, and while it didn't necessarily force turnovers, it put them into a rhythm they preferred not to play."

Mount St. Mary's attempted to use its superior muscle inside with 6-foot-10, 245-pound Springer and 6-9, 250-pound Michael Cook dominating inside the paint early on. The strategy produced the big early edge, but suddenly lost its magic when St. Francis turned up the press.

The Red Flash had some anxious moments through the stretch when it missed five of seven free throws, but the Mount never regained its tempo, and by the time Greg Harris (18 points) hit two late baskets, St. Francis had ridden out the real threat.

In the final 22 seconds, St. Francis (5-8, 2-2) went 6-for-6 from the line, with John McLean (Poly) hitting four to finish with a game-high 20 points. McLean also made a big block, coming from the weak side to swat away Harris' shot with 15 seconds remaining in a four-point game.

Again, the Mount played without Melvin Whitaker, who was to lead an imposing front line before a preseason ankle injury that has forced him to miss the entire campaign.

Phelan said Whitaker will not be red-shirted because "he is too old. He just isn't making good progress in his rehab."

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