SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Saint Leo men’s basketball team, behind a 25-point, 15-rebound night from senior Jordan Prais, nearly erased a 22-point deficit to come within one possession of drawing even, but could not complete the comeback as they fell to host American International College 76-70 on Saturday afternoon.
After a poor-shooting first half, the Lions came out a reenergized team and completely shut down the host Yellow Jackets to quickly erase the double-digit deficit.
The Lions came out very sluggish at the start, hitting just one jumper in the first five minutes, while the host Yellow Jackets were on fire from the opening tip, hitting five shots, including two 3-pointers to take a nine point lead into the first timeout.
The AIC roll didn’t stop there in the first half as it seemed they couldn’t miss from the field, using the glass and the 3-point line to push their lead to 22 points with three minutes to go. The Yellow Jackets would take a 16 point lead into the lockers as they shot 50 percent from the field and 43 percent from behind the arc.
The beginning of the second half seemed to be the same story as AIC again stretched the lead to 22 points with 17 minutes to play. For the next five minutes the game hovered between an 18 and 20 point advantage for the hosts from Springfield.
With AIC up by 20 with 11 minutes to play it seemed the game was on its way to an uneventful ending, but suddenly Saint Leo came alive and stormed back, outscoring American International 22-5 over the next nine minutes. Suddenly, fans in attendance looked up to the scoreboard and saw the visiting Lions trailing by just three points at 69-66.
After trading baskets for the next two minutes, the Lions saw themselves in a prime position to draw even. After AIC missed two free throws with SLU trailing by three and less than a minute on the clock, Saint Leo pulled down possession and took the ball down the court looking to knot the game.
With 24 ticks on the clock, the Lions saw a Jamal Thompson trey attempt spin the iron before rimming out and getting pulled down by the Yellow Jackets, who would promptly be fouled. AIC would make their resulting free throws as the clock would run out on the Lions’ comeback attempt.
Prais’ double-double gives him 1490 points and 719 rebounds for his career, tying him with Duane Fort ’88 for sixth all-time at Saint Leo. His 15 boards in the AIC game see him leap-frog Ron Taylor ’90 for fourth all-time. Ironically enough, Prais now sets his sights on Fort’s 726 rebounds for third all-time.
SLU also saw Jeremy Jackson drop in 18 points in the loss as the Lions outscored the visitors 40-30 in the second half.
AIC guard Isiah Wallace scored 23 points to help the Yellow Jackets hang on for the win.
The Lions will now travel to Manchester, NH to face Southern New Hampshire University. Saint Leo and the Penmen will tip-off at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.