SAINT LEO, Fla. – Defense proved to make all the difference for Mike Madagan and the Saint Leo men’s basketball team as they defeated visiting Florida Tech 67-58 in Sunshine State Conference action from the Marion Bowman Activities Center on Saturday afternoon.
Playing without two seniors, the Lions (10-14, 4-7 SSC) blocked a program-record 14 shots and held the visitors from Melbourne to a 21.2 shooting percentage in the second half as they pushed away from the Panthers at the end of the game.
Despite the poor second half from Tech (13-9, 3-8 SSC), the first half was closely contested. In the opening 20 minutes the score changed hands eight times as neither team could gain a stronghold on the game. With the largest lead at five points early in the half, both squads answered each other shot-for-shot.
As the half wound to a close, freshman Dominick Robinson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Lions a three-point advantage. After Florida Tech retook the lead with less than a minute left, junior Jeremy Jackson drove the baseline a dunked the ball home over a Panther player to give SLU the lead heading into the halftime break.
During the break Madagan made some defensive changes that made all the difference in the second half as the Lions came out and held the Panthers to just eight buckets in the entire period.
Despite the strong defensive effort, the Lions found themselves down by five with 7:29 left to play. After that point, the Lions would go off, hitting 6-of-7 shots from the field, and, more importantly with their recent struggles, closing the game out 6-of-7 from the free-throw line.
While the Lions were hitting nearly everything they were putting up, the Panthers couldn’t find the basket as they were outscored 19-5 in the final 7:30 and Tech would be held entirely scoreless as SLU would go on a 10-0 run to seal the game.
An all-around impressive performance from the Green & Gold, Saint Leo shot 46 percent (24-for-42) from the field while holding Florida Tech to just a 32 percent (21-of-65) average.
The Lions also went 12-of-15 (80 percent) from the free-throw line.
The freshman Robinson scored 20 points while he hit four treys in the win. Junior transfer Daniel Oliver was the only other Lion in double-digits with 11 points. Making the first start of his career, freshman Matt Kendrick was 4-of-6 from the field with eight points while pulling down six rebounds and blocking four shots. Not to be out-done, freshman Allen Young tied Kendrick with the team-lead in blocks with four.
Sophomore Simon Cummings was a bright-spot in the loss as he scored a team-leading 17 points and had four steals in 36 minutes.
The Lions now turn their attention to archrival Tampa, who they will host on Wednesday night. Saint Leo and the Spartans will tip off at 7:30 p.m. in the Bowman Center. The Lions will also honor our Armed Forces on Wounded Warrior Night where SLU will recognize two veterans injured in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All active-duty and veteran service members will get free admission to Wednesday’s game and the Wounded Warrior ceremony will begin before the tip-off of the men’s game.