CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Saint Leo men's basketball team kicked-off its 2012-13 season with a thrilling 69-67 defeat of the Atlantic Coast Conference's (ACC) University of Miami Hurricanes on Friday night from the Bank United Center on the campus of the University of Miami.
Winning its first-ever game over a standing major-conference Division I opponent, the team highlighted their victory with an outstanding night of shooting as they shot nearly 46 percent (24-of-53) from the field. Three players scored in double figures, including a team-high 23 points from Trent Thomas, who also led the club with four 3-point field goals. Chim Kadima notched 12 in his Lions debut, while Shaun Adams chipped in 10 points. On the boards, Spenser Mitchell led the squad as he registered eight rebounds. The Hurricanes were led by a 19-point effort from Trey McKinney-Jones.
Saint Leo controlled the pace of play at the onset of the game as Kadima, a junior-transfer from Loyola-Chicago, sparked the Lions with an opening possession steal which he converted into the game's opening points. Shortly after, Kadima struck again with the team's first three-point basket, giving Saint Leo a 5-3 lead. En route to the 13-3 advantage, Kadima added his third consecutive basket, in addition to back-to-back three's from Jerrel Harris and Marcus Ruh.
After withstanding a 9-0 Miami run, and seeing the lead cut to one, Saint Leo used their suffocating defense to translate into more offense. Forcing five turnovers over a four minute span, the Lions, charged by nine combined points from Thomas and Tom Neary, erupted for a 13-6 run to take a 26-18 advantage with 8:16 to play in the first half.
The Hurricanes and Lions then traded three-point baskets as both Adams and Kadima pushed the Saint Leo lead to its second 10-point advantage, 35-25, going into the final three minutes of the half.
A runner in the lane by Thomas in the final minute maintained the Saint Leo lead going into the halftime break up 37-30.
Out of the locker room, an 8-2 run gave the Lions their largest lead of the game, 13 points, with 17:27 to play.
Continuing the hot shooting, Thomas maintained the team's 13-point lead, 52-39, forcing Miami into a timeout with 11:30 to play in the second half.
However, Miami's outside shooting awakened over the next four minutes as five consecutive three-point baskets allowed the Hurricanes to tie the contest at 56 with seven minutes to play.
From there a back-and-forth contest ensued with both teams exchanging baskets over the remainder of the game. During the exchange, Miami managed to take the lead for the first time since a 3-2 advantage at 19:29 to play in the first half.
From that point the lead changed hands five times over the next four minutes with Thomas' third three-point basket giving the Lions a 66-64 lead with 2:21 to play. The senior from Milwaukee, Wisc. struck again with just under two minutes to play to extend the lead to five, 69-64, before a Miami three-pointer put the Saint Leo lead at two going into the home stretch.
With 35.5 seconds to go, and still holding their 69-67 lead, Saint Leo relied on their usual staunch defense to solidify the win. The Hurricanes registered three shots and an offensive rebound during the span to try and force the game into overtime, but could not succeed in their efforts.
The two teams each registered 33 rebounds, while also collecting 12 free-throw makes. The visitors also forced six steals and 15 total turnovers.
The loss for Miami is their first exhibition letdown since losing to the Nike Elite on November 2, 2003.
Up next, Saint Leo will continue its two-game ACC exhibition tour as they travel to Tallahassee, Fla. to take on the No.24-ranked Florida State Seminoles. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Tucker Center on the campus of Florida State University.
The Lions will open home regular season action on Friday, November 9, when they host Shorter College in a non-region showdown. Tip-off for that contest is set for 7:30 p.m.
For more on the nationally-ranked men's basketball program, visit SaintLeoLions.com. Also, be sure to 'Like' the Lions on Facebook at Facebook.com/SaintLeoLions.com, and 'Follow' the Lions on Twitter at Twitter.com/SaintLeoLions.
*Clarification: In 1984 Saint Leo College defeated Georgia State University in their first year as a member of the Transamerica Conference.
Gutsy performance by the Lions tonight as Saint Leo knocks off the Hurricanes in Miami. I love the heart and toughness of this team.