American stifles St. Francis down stretch to prevail 66-55

Nov. 27—LORETTO — When Marlon Hargis hit all three free throws after being fouled shooting a 3-pointer to pull St. Francis within a point of American with 4:51 left, it was looking like the Red Flash might be take their first winning streak of the season on the road to Bucknell and Ohio State.

It wasn't meant to be.

American scored the next 10 points as the Red Flash weren't able to build off their 67-point win over Franciscan, wilting down the stretch to the deliberate play of the Eagles, 66-55, in men's college basketball action on Saturday night at DeGol Arena.

It was the lowest scoring performance of the season for St. Francis, which fell to 2-5. The Red Flash were held to 38.6% shooting and only converted 4 of 17 3-pointers.

Max Land's 14 points topped the Red Flash. Josh Cohen finished with 12 and Landon Moore 10.

"We have to be able to figure out how to finish games," Land said. "Being able to execute on both ends of the floor is a big box we need to check off."

American limited St. Francis to 62 possessions, outscoring the hosts 44-24 in the paint and leaving with a 36-24 advantage on the boards.

"Those two numbers, just from a defensive standpoint, aren't going to win too many games," St. Francis coach Rob Krimmel said.

The Red Flash have lost two games by six or fewer. They also were within six points at St. Bonaventure with 7:05 to go and nine at Butler with 8:34 left before dropping both those games by double figures.

A first-year captain who wears his passion on his sleeve and entered the night averaging 22.2 points per game, Cohen was clearly dejected by the outcome.

"As a leader of this team, I just feeling like I'm kind of failing at my job," Cohen said earnestly. "I've always wanted this position. I don't think we're coming together as a group. We just have these lulls whether it's defensively or offensively the next night. Great teams are led by great leaders. Obviously, I've got to step up my game."

To be fair to Cohen and Land, three freshmen played more than 18 minutes against American and another played almost eight minutes off the bench. Two of the Red Flash's top returnees this year still are out of action because of injuries. Senior captain Myles Thompson hasn't played yet this season and junior guard Ronell Giles Jr. only has played two minutes since the opener against St. Bonaventure.

"Consistency is key (in leadership), but you never find that until you go through some of these experiences. It stinks," Krimmel said. "But, you know, if they embrace that as part of the journey, they will be better."

Moore's corner 3 with 5:25 left, which just preceded Hargis three free throws, was St. Francis' last field goal. American employs a style similar to the Princeton teams that force opponents to defend deep into the shot clock while they keep them honest with numerous backdoor cuts, making possessions at a premium and keeping foes from getting in an offensive rhythm.

The Eagles grabbed 11 offensive rebounds to make the Red Flash have to spend even more time defending. Matt Rogers led American with 16 points and 10 boards.

"When the game's on the line, that's where you need to execute," Krimmel said. "If you don't get that shot, then you come down and have to defend their stuff for 30 seconds, so it becomes a pace game."

St. Francis closed the first half on a 10-2 spurt to take a 26-24 lead at the break. Cohen led the Red Flash with nine points over the first 20 minutes and Land had seven.

St. Francis missed its first eight 3-pointers before Land pulled up from the top of the key at the 2:52 mark to cut American's lead to 22-19. Then Cohen got hot, scoring seven in the last 2:08 of the half to put St. Francis in front.

St. Francis managed that while playing very little of Hargis, who was limited to six minutes after picking up two very quick fouls.

"It takes you out of rhythm because you have a rotation, but that's part of it," Krimmel said.

Six different players combined for St. Francis' first 14 points, with no Red Flash player reaching four until Land knocked down a couple of foul shots at the 6:06 mark.

American scored the first five points of the contest, but St. Francis counter-punched, tying it on Moore's three-point play just under four minutes in.

That was part of a 10-0 Red Flash flurry.