After leading for 29:10 minutes of the game by as many as 12 points, the Saint Francis out-scored Central Connecticut 29-11 in the final period to top the Blue Devils 85-75 on their Senior Day. Junior Kiana Patterson paced the team with 17 points and helped CCSU out-shoot SFU 44.3 percent (27-of-61) to 35.7 percent (25-to-70).
CCSU falls to 6-20 on the year and 6-9 in the league. Saint Francis remains at the top of the NEC standings with Robert Morris with a record of 13-2 in the league and 18-9 overall.
The Blue Devils forced three consecutive turnovers in the opening three minutes of play to take an early 9-6 lead. CCSU traded baskets with the Red Flash and broke their full court pressure with ease, scoring 10 of its 27 points in the paint in the first quarter. Central shot 10-for-13 from the foul line in the opening ten minutes and made 8-of-15 from the field to lead 27-24.
Central Connecticut laid on the gas to start the second quarter, going on a 11-0 run that was fueled by eight straight points from the Blue Devils' leading scorer junior Kiana Patterson. Johnson drained a second chance three-pointer with 6:18 to go in the first half that put CCSU up by 12 points, 38-26, as the home bench erupted forcing SFU head coach Joe Haigh to call a time out.
Out of the huddle, Saint Francis scored five straight points that was answered by a Patterson-to-Johnson connection for three. SFU's Caitlyn Kroll hit a three-pointer with 10 seconds left until the intermission to cut the lead to nine points, 36-45.
At the break Patterson and Johnson led the Blue Devils with eight points apiece and CCSU shot an impressive 15-for-28 (.536) from the floor. The Red Flash struggled on the offensive end making just 28.9 percent (11-of-38).
Kovatch and senior Ace Harrison's first half minutes were limited due to three personal fouls each.
Kickstarting the second half with a deep triple was Patterson from the right wing. SFU answered the call with a 9-0 run and cut the Blue Devil lead to three points, 48-45, at the 6:45 mark in the third. Central and the Red Flash would go back-and-forth for the remainder of the period as CCSU slowly built its lead back to eight points, 64-56.
Six straight free throws from Kovatch, an SFU transition bucket, and a Karson Swogger three-pointer to cap off an 11-2 run allowed the Red Flash to take their first lead sine the 4:44 mark in the first quarter, at 72-69 with 5:42 to go in regulation.
With the Red Flash leading 79-72 and 56 seconds to go Patterson nailed a three-pointer in front of the CCSU bench to pull them to within four points, but that would be as close as the Blue Devil would get to upsetting the NEC's top contender.
Gardener tied a career high nine points and pulled down a game-tying high 10 rebounds. Kovatch finished the game with 29 points and Harrison ended up with a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards.
The Central Connecticut women's basketball will play Robert Morris on Monday night inside Detrick Gymnasium for its final home game of the 2017-18 regular season. CCSU will then traveling to St. Francis Brooklyn and LIU Brooklyn next weekend.