By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
With each missed shot, St. Francis Brooklyn men's basketball coach Glenn Braica grew more astounded.
Hoping to enter their weekend showdown at Boston College with a .500 record, the Terriers (2-4) apparently forgot how to put the ball in the basket during the first 10 minutes of their eventual 78-74 loss at the University of Albany on Wednesday night before a crowd of 2,542 at SEFCU Arena.
St. Francis Brooklyn missed its first 15 shots of the contest, falling behind 18-0 before senior forward Travis Nichols came off the bench and made a layup with 9:40 to play in the opening stanza. Nichols finished with a team-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but as for the rest of the Terriers, their early game shooting woes proved too much to overcome as St. Francis dropped its second in a row.
"We were looking to set a record [for missing shots to start a game]," Braica told the Albany Times-Union after watching his unit rally to make a game of it, only to fall short down the stretch. "I guess if you coach long enough, you are going to see just about everything."
Junior guard Ben Mockford scored 18 points, going 6-of-12 from 3-point range once he found his shooting touch, and sophomore forward Jalen Cannon added 11 points and seven boards for St. Francis, which used a startling 22-7 run to climb back into contention following its dismal start. Nichols netted 13 points during the ferocious comeback as the Terriers pulled within 25-22 on senior guard Dre Calloway's lay-in with 4:37 remaining in the half.
After falling behind by nine at halftime, the Terriers summoned another surge, going on a 13-3 burst to take their lone lead of the contest at 39-38 when sophomore forward Kevin Douglas scored with 16:29 to play. But the frontcourt combo of Mike Black and Jacob Iati (combined 41 points) helped the Great Danes (7-2) pull away thereafter, leaving St. Francis to wonder what could have been if only it hadn't gone scoreless for the opening 10:20.
The Terriers will doubtlessly need a better start, middle and finish if they are to compete with the Golden Eagles on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Junior guard Jasmin Robinson scored all 11 of her points in the second half, but it wasn't enough as the St. Francis Brooklyn women's team endured a heartbreaking 61-60 loss to visiting Penn on Wednesday night at Remsen Street's Pope Center.
Robinson, a graduate of Brooklyn's Medgar Evers High School, actually had a chance to pull out the resurgent Terriers' third win in six games this season, but her last-second jumper missed the target as time expired, leaving first-year coach John Thurston's crew with a 2-4 mark.
Thurston has certainly gone a long way toward making the Terriers competitive during the season's early stretch after inheriting a team that went a dismal 4-25 a season ago under long-time coach Brenda Milano.
St. Francis will try to stop a season-high four-game skid when it hosts Yale on Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn Heights. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be broadcast on NEC Front Row (www.necfrontrow.com).
In other local hoops news, the NYU-Poly women's team went into its extended winter break with a second straight win Wednesday night, topping Yeshiva 89-50 behind a season-high 24 points from senior Shelby Bruns. Sophomore Catherine Thompson and freshman Alyssa D'Apice added 16 points apiece for the Lady Jays (2-5), who be off until they host CCNY in their 2013 conference opener Jan. 5.
Freshman guard and Brooklyn native Jamel Gist earned Skyline Conference Rookie of the Week for the second time during the early portion of the season Monday after averaging 22.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 steals while the Jays split a pair of decisions against Maritime (63-57 win) and Farmingdale State (81-54 loss) last week.
Gist was especially surehanded during the two games, committing only two turnovers in 71 minutes of action. The Jays (2-4) are off until Jan. 7, when they host the Sage Colleges.
The Brooklyn College Men's Basketball home game scheduled for this Saturday against SUNY Maritime at the West Quad Center has been postponed. No make-up date has been determined as of yet.
Off the hardwood and onto the diamond, LIU-Brooklyn right-hander Justin Topa made a very exclusive list this week, earning a spot on the top 100 collegiate baseball prospects in the nation by Baseball America.
Topa, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow Blackbird MLB draftees James Jones and Tyler Jones (no relation), came in at No. 81 on the list, becoming the first Division I player from the Northeast region to appear in the Top 100. He is also the lone such prospect from the Northeast Conference.
Previously, the Binghamton, N.Y. product was named one of the Top 10 prospects in the esteemed Northwoods Summer League and was selected as the No. 2 draft prospect in the state of New York by Perfect Game USA.
Topa, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 33rd round of the 2012 MLB Draft, missed the entire 2012 season due to injury. Over his two seasons with the Blackbirds, Topa registered 12 wins and nine complete games, compiled a 4.57 ERA and one save in 30 appearances (23 starts). In 138 innings of collegiate ball, Topa struckm out 119 batters against just 36 walks and had a WHIP of 1.32.
LIU Brooklyn baseball opens its 2013 season with a three-game series at High Point in North Carolina from Feb. 22-24.