The Saint Francis players enjoyed such an incredible high on Wednesday with a historic victory at Pitt that it might have been inevitable that they were due to be knocked down a peg a few days later.
That happened Saturday afternoon, as UMBC steamrolled the Red Flash in the second half for an 80-65 victory at DeGol Arena.
Saint Francis led 33-32 at the half, but it had to play most of the second half without point guard Ramiir Dixon-Conover, who led the way in the win at Pitt. Dixon-Conover rolled an ankle, and his status going forward is unclear.
Saint Francis coach Rob Krimmel was asked if the loss could be blame on the inevitable letdown effect or UMBC being the better team today.
“It was a combination of both,” Krimmel said. “Our guys were talking about how much attention they were getting on social media.
“I do know that it was a pretty exciting couple of days for them,” Krimmel added. “We try to guard against that, but they are 18 to 22 year old kids. … We have some young kids that have never been through that before. sometimes you got to experience that pain and that loss in order to teach that lesson.”
Still, this wasn’t just about a Saint Francis letdown.
“At the end of the day, UMBC and Coach (Ryan) Odom, they played better than we did. Period,” Krimmel said.
Saint Francis trailed 41-35 when Dixon-Conover got injured. UMBC poured it on after that to secure the runaway victory.
“His leadership and his ability to control the game a little bit is something we missed in the second half,” Krimmel said.
Center Mark Flagg, a senior, added some good perspective about what the young SFU team went through after the Pitt win.
“Of course the win over Pitt was an awesome feeling for our team as a whole,” Flagg said.
“When you have a team of a lot of younger guys, they think that they’re better, they’re so great. And it’s just something that they need to experience in a career. … The worst thing to happen is you think you’re the best team and you think you’re gonna blow everyone out.”
Flagg led SFU with 18 points, while Tyler Stewart had 12 off the bench and Maxwell Land 10.
Bishop Guilfoyle product Luke Ruggery scored the first two points of his college career on a pair of free throws in the first half. He played 11 minutes and didn’t take a shot but had four fouls.
Flagg said the young Flash will learn from what all has happened the past few days and grow from it.
“Tomorrow, everyone’s gonna come back with a lot of energy, and we’re gonna give Virginia a good fight, I know it,” Flagg said.
The Flash’s next game is Tuesday at No. 4 Virginia. Saint Francis had better be ready, because the Cavaliers are coming off a stunning 61-60 loss to San Francisco, so they certainly will be salty and looking for a rebound win.