St. Johns' Tarvis Malone (12) steals the ball from St. Francis' Jameson Williams (44) Friday, 12/23/11, at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio.
As St. Francis coach Brad Britton stood outside his team's locker room at Savage Arena trying to come up with answers after a humiliating defeat, a man down the hallway empathized with him.
It was St. John's coach Ed Heintschel, a St. Francis alumnus, whose team had just finished administering a 66-31 thrashing of the Knights on Friday.
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Heintschel sensed Britton's pain. Before the Titans coach became successful, he lost ugly. How ugly? In 1979, his first year, Findlay beat them by 52 points.
"We got walloped," Heintschel said. "Brad does a great job. I told him to hang in there."
Using pressure at both ends of the floor, the Titans (4-2, 3-1 Three Rivers Athletic Conference) built leads of 15-6 after the first quarter, 38-10 at halftime, and 59-18 before Heintschel cleared the bench to begin the final eight minutes.
Nothing went right for St. Francis, which is still seeking its first win five games into the season. Four of its starters did not score, and the team combined for just seven buckets in the first three quarters. Despite earlier losses, Britton was mostly pleased with his team's effort in their first four games. Last Friday they seemed to show progress, taking Central Catholic into overtime before losing. So what went wrong against the Titans?
"We just got smacked by a much better team for one," Britton said.
Whether this setback multiplies into more rough nights depends how his players respond, Britton said.
"I think a large part of that is up to them," he said. "I don't think we came with any effort or any enthusiasm. If we're not going to play with any effort or enthusiasm, that's going to be the end result. We talk about keeping their chins up. You have to back that up. We're playing our arch rival, and I just thought we got away from everything that we were prepared to do."
St. John's, on the other hand, did everything right. Marc Loving asserted himself early, finishing with a game-high 17 points to go along with five rebounds.
"We prepared hard for this game," Loving said. "We didn't expect the outcome to be how it ended, but it definitely was a good victory, and we're proud that it ended how it did."
D.J. Bonds, St. John's only other returning starter, knocked down two 3-pointers and finished with eight points. Also scoring eight points were Austin Gardner and Chris Stearns, the latter whom knocked down two 3s in a rare extended appearance off the bench.
"I was happy for Chris Stearns," Heintschel said. "Those guys who work really hard and don't get a lot of minutes, you like to see them go in there and have some success."
Added Gardner: "I think every day we're progressively getting better."
Josh Portner was the lone bright spot for St. Francis. The reserve wing scored 11 points, converting four of five shots from the field. Seven of his points came in the fourth quarter.
That his team is on Christmas break is no excuse for the sluggish effort, Britton said, because "St. John's is in the same situation."
"They were pretty much able to score any way they wanted to score," he said. "We didn't offer much resistance. Our team defense wasn't there. If they wanted to post up, they posted up. If they wanted to take it to the basket and score, they took it to the basket and scored. If they wanted to shoot the 3, they shot the 3. We didn't do a very good job of defending."
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160, or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.