VALDOSTA, Ga. – The Saint Leo University men’s basketball team’s struggles continue as they dropped a 67-61 decision to Valdosta State University in The Loop Pizza Grill Classic on Friday night. The loss marks the Lions’ third straight and drops SLU to 3-3 overall this season.
The start of the game was promising for the Green & Gold as the Lions won the opening tip and jumped out to a 12-6 lead after five minutes had run off of the scoreboard. After a timeout by VSU, Saint Leo would come out cold for the next five minutes as the Blazers rattled off a 11-2 run during a span that saw the Lions three 3-pointers and shoot 1-for-7 during the span.
Back-to-back buckets by Jordan Prais and Josue Vazquez cut the Valdosta lead to 19-18 but then another 9-0 run by the Blazers saw VSU get a comfortable double-digit lead that they took into the lockers.
The second half saw the Lions quickly cut into Valdosta State’s led, dropping it to as much as four points on a Kyle Rowland layup with 16:43 left, but Valdosta would push the lead back to 14 as they dropped in the next 10 points to take their lead to 47-33.
After both teams spent the next 10 minutes trading baskets, Saint Leo would begin to try and rally with just over four minutes left to play. A Prais layup, a trey by Thomas Kaiser and three free-throws by Quentin Cullop suddenly saw the Blazer lead cut to 63-59 with 2:09 left.
Although the Lions had opportunities in the final two minutes, they could not cut into the lead anymore as Valdosta State converted their free-throws at the end of the game to get the 67-61 final margin.
The junior Cullop posted a game-high 18 points on a 6-for-12 night. He was one of four Lions in double figures as Prais posted 15 points, Rowland has 14 and Vazquez added 11.
As a team the Lions outshot the host Blazers 45 percent (24-for-53) to 44 percent (27-for-61), but the Blazers were 5-for-19 from behind the arc while Saint Leo only connected on 2-of-12 treys. The biggest intangible was bench points, where the Lions were outscored 28-3 by the Blazer’s reserves.
Saint Leo will conclude their trip to Valdosta as they play in the second day of The Loop Pizza Grill Classic. The Lions face West Alabama at 4:00 p.m. in a game that will be carried live on the Saint Leo Lions AudioCast Network.