SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo men’s basketball team left the Bowman Center Wednesday night with an unusual feeling after they suffered their first home loss of the season in an 84-74 setback to Florida Southern in Sunshine State Conference action. The visiting Moccasins improved to 10-2 overall and 2-0 in the SSC while the Lions fall to 9-3 and 1-2 in conference.
Despite the 10-point final score, the game was anything but an easy win for the visitors from Lakeland. Jumping out to an early double-digit advantage, the Moccasins lead by as much as 11 points before the 10 minute media timeout in the first half. Saint Leo answered with a 21-5 run that had them storming back to take a 36-31 lead after Quentin Cullop drained two free throws to put the Lions on top.
FSC responded with a small rally, including a buzzer-beating layup by Brandon Jenkins, to knot the game at 37 as both squads headed to the lockers.
The intensity jumped a notch entering the second half as both teams took advantage of significant momentum swings to hold leads during the final 20 minutes. The Lions stared at a 49-49 tie and outscored the Mocs 9-2 over the next four minutes to take a 58-51 lead with 11 minutes left.
The final thrust came at the visitor’s advantage as Florida Southern retook the lead with 6:25 left and held off SLU rallies, including a frantic final two minutes where the Lions opted to foul and hope the Mocs would not convert their free throws, to pull out the victory.
The final statistics saw Cullop drop in 25 points on 7-of-13 shooting where he would connect on four treys and seven free throws. Jamal Thompson added 17 points and Matt Kendrick came off the bench to chip in 13.
Florida Southern relied on 21 points and 10 rebounds from Jenkins, alongside 14 points from Rion Rayfield and 10 from Terry Jenkins to get the win.
Both teams shot 44 percent from the field and the Lions outshot the visitors from behind the 3-point arc (41 percent to 38 percent), but the biggest discrepancy came at a familiar spot – the free throw line. The charity stripe is where the Mocs won the game as 25 of their 84 points came from the stripe. The Mocs finished 24-of-28 (86 percent) in free throw shooting while Saint Leo was just 11-of-19 (58 percent) from the line.
The Lions will suit up to take one of their longest in-conference journey this weekend as Saint Leo travels to Nova southeastern on Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. at the Don Taft University Center in Ft. Lauderdale.