MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The 10th-ranked Saint Leo men's basketball team relied on their familiar tough-nosed defense for the first time this year as they pushed past Lincoln University (Pa.) 51-46 in the semifinal round of the Fresh Coast Classic played at Wisconsin Lutheran College.
Marcus Ruh (Green Bay, Wis.) returned to his home state and paced the Lions behind a 6-for-13 night where he dropped in 14 points. Also returning to their hometown, Jerrel Harris (Milwaukee, Wis.) added 11 points and Trent Thomas (Milwaukee, Wis.) dropped in 10 to keep the Lions undefeated.
"I thought that Lincoln did a very good job defensively, but also they tried to take the air out of the ball," Head Coach Lance Randall said. "They ran long possessions intentionally to try and shorten the game."
"We came out and looked like a team who hadn't played in a week-and-a-half. We weren't sharp; we didn't run our stuff well; we were flat. In the end we just out-toughed them. We did a better job in the second half of putting the ball in the basket and getting free throws, and we didn't turn it over as much as we did in the first half."
The going was rough in the first half as neither team shot higher than 31 percent. In fact, both teams hit seven shots from the field with two of those connections from behind the three point line. Lincoln managed to take a 23-20 lead into the halftime break as they hit three more free throw shots than the Lions.
Out of the break it was the Lions who held the hot hand, taking their first lead at 17:53 left in the game. Knowing that their perimeter shooting was not going to take them to the win, the Lions began to push the ball inside, relying on points in the paint to keep them in the game.
The big difference in the second half was from the charity stripe as the Lions hit 11-of-15 opportunities while Lincoln only managed to make it to the line seven times, hitting just four free throws.
Saint Leo improves to 3-0 for the season while Lincoln falls to 2-1. Saint Leo will now advance to the Fresh Coast Classic's Championship Game where they will face No. 23 Winston-Salem State in a battle of top-25 teams. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST (6 p.m. CST).
This postgame recap is brought to you by Papa Joe's Italian Restaurant in Brooksville, Fla.
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