SAINT LEO, Fla. – As the Saint Leo men’s basketball team now looks toward their final two games of the regular season, the Lions are trying to right the ship after losing two-straight games and falling to 4-10 in the Sunshine State Conference.  Playing the most games of any team in the SSC (28) the Lions are just 11-17 and looking to use a road win in St. Petersburg against the Tritons to help solidify a position for the upcoming conference tournament.

Last Time Out

Using a 3-point stroke that had seemed to betray the Lions the entire season that suddenly became their biggest ally last Saturday afternoon, the Saint Leo men’s basketball team hit six of them to nearly erase a 13-point second half deficit against SSC foe Rollins. It was a rally came up short as the 18th-ranked Tars pulled out the 70-64 victory in Sunshine State Conference action from the Bowman Center.

In the second half, a 56-43 Rollins lead quickly evaporated as Jeremy Jackson, Josue Vasquez and Dominick Robinson all connected on 3-pointers and Robinson also bucketed a layup to cut the Tars’ advantage to just two.  That would mark the first of three times that Saint Leo would cut to deficit to just a single basket, but neither time could the Lions get the equalizer as Rollins connected on the following shot every time.

Despite the loss, four Lions scored in double-digits as Jordan Prais recording his first double-double since returning from an ankle injury last week.  The senior from Lakeland, Fla. scored 10 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.  Vazquez and Jackson finished with a team-high 14 points while Robinson finished with 10.

The Lions shot and astounding 52.1 percent (25-for-48) from the field while going 9-for-18 (50 percent) from behind the arc.

Series Overview

Saint Leo picked up one of their biggest wins during the Mike Madagan era in the McArthur Center as the Lions upset the host Tritons 65-62 in March of 2008.  It was an upset that saw the seventh-seeded Lions stun the second-seeded Tritons in the first round of the Sunshine State Conference Tournament, a tournament which the Tritons had won the year prior.  Since the 2006-07 season the Lions are currently 2-6 against the Tritons, with their only other win coming in a 77-72 victory the last time SLU visited South St. Pete.

Last Meeting

After pushing the margin to 10 points with 7:40 left in the first half, the Saint Leo men’s basketball team would not score another point for nine minutes as the Eckerd College Tritons stormed back to overtake the Lions and claim a 67-61 Sunshine State Conference victory at the Bowman Center on January 20th. In seeing their three-game win streak snapped, the Lions shot just 32.8 percent (19-of-58) from the field compared to Eckerd’s 39 percent (22-of-56).  Despite allowing just two 3-pointers from Eckerd throughout the game, the Lions biggest weakness again came from the free-throw line as they only hit 56.7 percent (17-of-30) of their shots, compared to the Tritons, who hit true on 21-of-26 (80.8 percent) of their chances. Saint Leo senior Jordan Prais had another notable night for the Lions as he scored 22 points and pulled down a team-high eight boards, while Vazquez was the only other Lion in double-digits with 14 points in 35 minutes.  Zaronn Cann was the big impact player for the Tritons as he had 19 points in just 23 minutes, most coming from in the paint.

Trends

After snapping a month-long losing streak with three-straight wins over schools with ‘Florida’ in their name (Tech, Southern, College) the Lions fell to the Tritons which started a three-game losing streak.  After that, the Lions have struggled through a 3-4 record with two-straight losses.  Since the New Year, the Lions have only been outscored by 1.2 points (72.3-to-71.1) as they are actually more accurate from the field than their opponents (.428-to-.394) but that comes at a price.  While the Lions are shooting better, they are more selective in their shots than their opponents.  Saint Leo has only put up 866 shots while their competition has tossed up 989 attempts since January 1st.  Saint Leo is also staring at a slim disadvantage (-1/5) in rebounds.  The Lions are easily out-blocking their opponents with a 90-to-49 advantage.

About Saint Leo

Despite sitting out three games in early February due to an ankle injury, senior record-setter Jordan Prais still leads the Lions and is fourth in the SSC with 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.  His 471 points are nearly double what his nearest teammate has tallied this season.  He is also the only SLU regular who is above 50 percent shooting (.513) and holds a .723 percent average from the free throw line.  With the Olympics fresh on everyone’s mind – the Silver medal for team scoring is up for grabs as freshman Dominick Robinson is just .1 of a point away from junior Jeremy Jackson for second on the team in scoring (9.6-to-9.5).  Defensively, aside from Prais, freshman Matt Kendrick is setting the benchmark in the SSC with rejections as he leads the eight other teams in blocking.  Kendrick helped set a new Saint Leo single-game blocking record as the Lions blocked 14 shots against Florida Tech on February 6th.  As a team, the Lions hold an extremely slim 0.1 advantage in scoring over their opponents throughout the season.  Despite being in the bottom-half of the Sunshine State Conference in numerous categories, the Lions lead the SSC in rebounding offense, blocked shots and defensive rebounds.

PlayerPPGRPGSpecialty
F, #1 Josue Vazquez8.84.0.497 fg pct., .750 ft pct.
F, #20 Jordan Prais18.88.6.513 fg pct., .723 ft pct.
C, #30 Matt Kendrick 4.54.953 blks.
G, #2 Brandon Powell4.31.7.369 fg pct.
G, #11 Dominick Robinson9.52.732 stls., .388 3pt pct.

About Eckerd

After missing out on the conference tournament last year, the Tritons, behind senior Zaronn Cann are back to form, solidly in third place in the SSC.  Cann and senior John Harper are both averaging 13.4 points per game as Cann also leads the team in rebounds with 6.0 per game.  Cann, a transfer from the University of South Florida, is shooting lights-out, averaging .620 percent (111-of-179) from the field.

The only other Triton averaging in double-figures is Wayne Sears, who is averaging 10.7 points a game behind .425 percent (79-of-186) shooting.

As a team, the Tritons are currently 16-8 overall and 9-5 in the SSC as they have season sweeps over Tampa, Lynn and Florida Tech.  EC seems to have a knack for the nail-biters as they have taken three games into overtime, holding a 2-1 record in the extra sessions.  Their last game was a double-overtime 85-85 thrilling win over Lynn in St. Pete.

The fourth-best scoring offense in the league (75.7 ppg) and the second-best defense (69.4 ppg) the Tritons are a serious threat from the free-throw line as they sit atop the conference in shots made from the charity stripe.  That should be of concern for Saint Leo as the Lions rank last in made free-throws.  Eckerd is also first in defensive boards.

PlayerPPGRPGSpecialty
F, #23 Lance Kearse6.73.2.500 fg pct., 21 blks.
F, #34 Zaronn Cann13.46.0.620 fg pct., .734 ft pct.
G, #10 Chris Gray6.51.5.429 fg pct., .796 ft pct., 69 asts.
G, #11 Lewis Lampley6.35.4.481 fg pct.
G, #22 John Harper13.43.0.898 ft pct., 18 stls.