MIAMI, Fla. – It didn’t look like the Lions were playing out of their division for all but three minutes of their contest with Division I Cleveland State, but those three minutes proved to be the difference-maker as the Lions fell 72-62 to the Vikings in the opening round of the O’Reilly Auto Parts/CBE Classic hosted by Florida International University on Monday night.
The Lions (3-1) saw their opponents from Ohio open up a quick 14-3 lead in the first five minutes of play before Saint Leo woke up and began to match the Vikings bucket-for-bucket through the remainder of the opening period. The Lions even managed a small run to close out the half as they closed the Vikings’ lead to 33-28 after Matt Salay hit a trey with 31 seconds remaining.
Saint Leo kept the hot hand as they came out of the intermission, taking only three minutes to draw even with their Division I foes. Cleveland State would have the game’s defining answer in the next three minutes as they answered the Lions with a 10-0 run, from which SLU could not recover.
The remaining time would be a back-and-forth contest where Cleveland State would keep the comfortable double-digit advantage, not letting it drop to less than six points throughout.
Saint Leo junior Jordan Prais, the reigning conference Player of the Week, led the Lions with 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting and pulled down a team-leading seven rebounds. His senior counterpart Kyle Rowland was the only other player in double-digits as he bucketed 11 points on 5-for-12 shooting. Salay was hot from behind the arc as he went 3-for-3, scoring nine points.
As a team the Lions shot 42 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the free-throw line. Behind Salay the Lions were 31 percent accurate from three-point range.
Saint Leo now gets back to their Division II schedule as they stay in South Florida and face Palm Beach Atlantic tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. The game will be carried live on the Saint Leo Lions AudioCast Network by visiting SaintLeoLions.com.