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St. Francis College suffers third-straight loss after early season success

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The impressive start the St. Francis women’s basketball team enjoyed this season seems to be losing steam.

The Terriers got off one of the program’s best starts in recent years behind hot outside shooting, but cold spell has them in a three-game losing streak after falling to Wagner 73–62 during a Northeast Conference game in Brooklyn Heights on Monday. St. Francis shot just 32.2 percent from the field for the game and connected on only three treys.

“Everything that we did to get to the position where we won some game was based on the fact that we opened things up with perimeter shots, and we just cant make them [now],” said second-year Terriers coach John Thurston. “We haven’t made them for a couple of weeks.”

Against Wagner his team instead rode the play of 5-foot-11 forward Jessica Kaufman inside during the second half. The junior scored 15 of this career-high 20 points after the break and added six rebounds. Leah Fechko chipped in 11 points and seven boards.

Kaufman, an Australia native, tallied five straight points to give St. Francis its largest lead of the game at 42–38 with 11:48 remaining in the contest.

“Everyone has been trying as hard as they possibly can,” Kaufman said. “The shots just ended up dropping for me a bit.”

Despite her best efforts, another drought came and St. Francis College had no answer for Wagner freshman guard Jasmine Nwajei. The former Murry Bergtraum star scored 25 of her game-high 27 points in the second half, after playing just seven minutes before the break because of foul trouble.

Wagner (4–15, 3–5) had four players in double figures. Nwajei banked in a three-pointer from the top of the key with the shot clock running down to put the Seahawks up 61–52 with 3:05 left.

“She’s a superstar,” Thurston said. “She just took over the game.”

His team has relied on balance, and the experience it gained last season. The Terriers’ starting five include four juniors and a sophomore, and there are just three seniors on the team. Forward Jaymee Veney and guard Eilidh Simpson have been the squad’s leading scorers.

St. Francis is 13–6 overall and 4–4 in conference play after starting 12–2. It’s a dramatic turnaround for a program that two years ago won just four games and only two the year before that.

“We are to the point now where we expect to win every night,” Thurston said.

The coach said his players told him they wanted practices to be harder moving forward to help them get out of this funk. They expect to be back in the business of posting W’s soon.

“We will be fine,” Kaufman said. “We are going to come back and get some wins.”

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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