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Still learning how to win, Red Flash bounce back with strong showing

Photo by Saint Francis Athletics: Ramiir Dixon-Conover

It takes time for young players to learn how to win, to overcome adversity and figure out what it takes to succeed in college basketball.

That’s the case at all levels, but especially at the mid- and low-major levels, where there aren’t elite, blue chip recruits. These players, such as the young talent at Saint Francis, need time to study up on the learning curve, and sometimes the best way to learn is actually … to lose.

The Red Flash suffered a brutal loss Tuesday night at home to Fairleigh Dickinson, blowing a 17-point second-half lead and falling in OT, 94-92.

Later that evening, coach Rob Krimmel sent all the players a text message, challenging them to come out with a good response for game two of the back-to-back against FDU.

“The response of these guys individually and as a group is what I was looking for,” Krimmel said after Wednesday’s 90-82 victory.

“This group is still learning to play together, this group is still learning to win basketball games together,” Krimmel said. “And we took a huge step.”

Saint Francis entered the day last in the Northeast Conference with a 2-6 record. Only the top four teams make the postseason tournament, so the Flash have a huge uphill climb to reach that goal.

Had they lost again Wednesday, to an FDU team in the bottom half of the standings, it’s easy to think this young SFU team possibly could have collapsed.

Krimmel disagreed with that possibility, though, saying the leadership on the team would not have allowed it to happen.

“No,” the coach said bluntly.

“Ramiir and Miles and Mark wouldn’t have let it,” he added.

Krimmel was talking about the team’s veteran leaders — Ramiir Dixon-Conover, Myles Thompson and Mark Flagg. Those three just so happen to lead the team in scoring in Wednesday’s bounce-back victory, with RDC scoring 19, Thompson 15 and Flagg 12.

“To be able to come back less than 24 hours after a disappointing loss the way they did is a credit to the kids in that locker room,” Krimmel said.

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“Certainly a great response to a situation that was very difficult as we walked out of the locker room last night.”

Krimmel said he shared a devotional with the players about how “we all want to walk through life without any trouble, without any issues or problems. However, we all know that is not the case, not just in basketball, but in life.”

Krimmel also added: “So many lessons in life are learned in times of struggle and difficulty.”

Saint Francis (4-9, 3-6) led 40-38 at the half, then faced immediate trouble in the second half as FDU (3-9, 2-4) came out strong with six straight points for a 44-40 edge.

After the way things played out in Tuesday’s loss, it may have seemed like the Flash were going to have another tough second half.

Instead, they bounced right back with a 9-0 run to reclaim the lead.

The Flash controlled the game the rest of the way and finished the game shooting 54 percent. They scored 90 points in back-to-back games against Division I opponents for the first time in Krimmel’s head coaching tenure.

Saint Francis is back in action with another back-to-back series Saturday and Sunday at home against Central Connecticut State.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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