ELIZABETH CITY, NC – The Saint Leo University men's basketball team closed out its pre-Christmas trip to Virginia and North Carolina with a resilient 87-74 win over Elizabeth City State University on Monday evening.
The win, the Lions' fourth-straight, came after Saint Leo (7-2) was forced to open up two big leads in order to down the Vikings. Rolling in the opening half, Saint Leo opened up as much as a 16 point advantage over its hosts, but watched as ECSU (6-3) cut the lead to just six at the half.
Out of the break, the Vikings used some fortunate breaks to tie the game at 45 with 16 minutes to go, but the Saint Leo answer would be swift and decisive.
Holding a slim advantage at 51-50, the Lions would go on a 25-6 run over eight minutes to wrap up the win. It was a run that was sparked by three consecutive three-point baskets in a 90 second span where the Lions scored nine unanswered points.
It was after Saint Leo opened up the 20 point advantage that the hosts resorted to fouling the Lions in the hopes that making free throws would be a problem. The Lions would connect on nearly all of their chances, making any sort of an Elizabeth City rally impossible.
"Elizabeth City is a very good basketball team and is very difficult to stop," Head Coach Lance Randall said. "It was a great defensive game as a team effort."
"I like the way we responded at halftime. It felt like it was slipping away and I thought in the second half we came out and were the tougher team and just kind of built it up; we got the ball to the rim and got to the free throw line. It's a great road win, an especially great road win heading into Christmas Break."
Senior Trent Thomas scored a game-high 28 points on a night that he went 8-for-11 from the field and connected on 7-of-9 free throws. He was also 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Only six points behind him was Jerrel Harris, whose 7-of-11 night put him in the book for 22 points.
Elizabeth City was led by Angelo Sharpless whose double-double (23 pts. /10 rebs.) managed to keep the Vikings in contention until midway through the final half.
The Lions will now head into the Christmas Break where they will see the longest span between games this season. Saint Leo will next take to the hardwood when they travel to West Palm Beach, Fla. and face Palm Beach Atlantic University on January 2, 2013. It will be 15-day span between contests.
This postgame recap is brought to you by Papa Joe's Italian Restaurant in Brooksville, Fla.
For more on the men's basketball program during the Holidays, 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.