SAINT LEO, Fla. – The term “firing on all cylinders” applied to the Saint Leo men’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon as they used hot shooting and outstanding defense to run away with a 79-67 win over visiting Lynn University in Sunshine State Conference action at a rowdy Bowman Center.
The Lions won the game’s opening tip, flipped the ball to junior Jordan Prais and watched him sink the initial bucket to give SLU the lead and get the scoring started. Lynn would answer with a basket of their own to tie it before a resounding dunk by senior Kyle Rowland began to get the crowd excited and put the Lions back on top. The Fighting Knights tied the game on the next possession, but it would be the last time LU would manage to draw even.
With the game knotted at four, the Saint Leo offense that Head Coach Mike Madagan had bragged about on multiple occasions finally made its appearance, and it was a grand one.
Over the span of the next nine minutes, Rowland would get two more rim-shaking dunks and score eight points, Josue Vazquez would drop in six points, and junior Quentin Cullop would hit a clutch three-pointer as the Lions went on a 25-6 run to jump out to a 29-10 lead over the visitors from Boca Raton, Fla. The Lions only surrendered one field goal in the nine minute span as Lynn saw more points come from the free-throw line (4) than from field (2).
With the comfortable lead, the Lions were able to play loose basketball and managed to keep the double-digit lead through the remainder of the game.
After taking a 40-28 lead into the locker room, Saint Leo came out with the hot-hand once again in the second half.
After Lynn dropped the lead to 10 points with 16:39 left, Saint Leo posted another large run, this time a 19-6 game-sealer that gave the Lions their largest lead of the game at 23 points and seemingly tilted the game in SLU’s favor.
The Fighting Knights made one final run in the closing minutes, but back-to-back baskets by Cullop and newcomer Jamal Thompson squashed any Lynn rally and sent the Green & Gold fans home happy.
Today’s win was just the Lions’ fourth triumph over Lynn since the start of the series in the early 90’s. Saint Leo was 0-22 against the Fighting Knights prior to the 2006-07 season. The Lions are currently 4-1 against Lynn in their last five meetings.
It was another banner day for the junior Prais as he posted another double-double with a game-leading 23 points and 13 rebounds. He now stands 15th all-time in Saint Leo scoring, passing Tyrone Graves with 1,103 points.
Prais was one for four starters in double figures as Vazquez hit the 20-point plateau as well. Cullop’s three 3-pointers capped off a 15 point effort and Rowland finished with 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
As a team, the Lions were 34-for-74 (46 percent) from the field while they hit almost 27 percent of their three-point shots (4-for-15).
The Lions’ defense blocked six shots and posted six steals while they only allowed Lynn to score on 25 of their 72 total shots for less than a 35 percent shooting average.
Saint Leo will use the momentum gained from this much-needed conference win as they travel to St. Petersburg on Wednesday evening. The Lions face Eckerd College in a Sunshine State Conference match-up scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on the Saint Leo Lions AudioCast Network.