SAINT LEO, Fla. – It has been 14 years since the Saint Leo men's basketball team has been able to say that they finished a season with a winning record. That drought vanished when the final horn sounded on a 61-49 win over Nova Southeastern at home on Saturday as the Lions won their 14th game of 2011-12, assuring themselves a winning record for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
"I thought we came out and we defended really well. We did a nice job with ball pressure and taking control of the paint early on," Head Coach Lance Randall said of the victory. "It was a very good team win. This team keeps getting better, although I didn't like the way we turned the ball over. Once we got that big lead I thought we got a little sloppy and you have to stay focused and stay tough in that situation."
The win came courtesy of another dominating performance where Saint Leo (14-10, 8-6 SSC) opened up as much as a 28 point lead over the Sharks. It was also another hot-shooting performance where the Lions held a 56 percent (25-for-45) average across 40 minutes, but shot a blistering 68 percent in the first half as they seemingly made shots from everywhere on the floor.
Jumping out to a double-digit lead with just 2:43 gone in the first half, the Lions took a 37-21 lead into the halftime break. Once in the second half, the Lions began pouring on the points, jumping out to a 53-25 advantage on a Marcus Ruh trey with 11:59 left. Nova Southeastern (11-13, 5-9 SSC) would slash the lead in half in the game's final quarter, but it would be too little-too late for the Sharks.
With just two games left in the regular season, the Lions' fifth-straight win assured them a winning record for the first time since finishing 19-9 in 1998. That was a squad that fell one game shy of the Sunshine State Conference regular season title with a loss on the season's final day. It was also a win that gave Randall a sense of accomplishment, but something he will reflect on only once the season has concluded.
"I'm proud of the guys and I'm pleased for them," he said. "It's great for the program because that was one of our goals right away. It's important because we have people looking at this program wondering if we're going to be able to turn it around, I think that says a lot. I think we're playing some great basketball, but I think we also have bigger fish to fry right now. We have more games to win."
The Lions now jump into a tie with Rollins for third place in conference with today's win and look to gain more ground when they face the SSC's top team on Wednesday in what is assured to be a high-octane shootout. Saint Leo and Eckerd will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday night in the final home game of the regular season. For the latest news, information, and updates on Lions Basketball and all other Saint Leo Athletics, visit SaintLeoLions.com.