March 15, 2014

Lions Defeat West Alabama, 75-67, in NCAA Tournament First Round

Sets up a showdown with No. 3 seed Delta State on Sunday at 5 p.m.  

LAKELAND, Fla. – The Saint Leo University men's basketball team came out of the gate quickly on Saturday and then hung on in the end for a 75-67 win over West Alabama in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament South Regional  at Florida Southern College's Jenkins Fieldhouse. 

The win improves the Lions to 24-8 on the year. They will now face Delta State University on Sunday at 5 p.m. in the regional semifinal. The Statesmen defeated Barry, 82-77 in overtime in the first game of the day. 

Jerrel Harris led four Saint Leo players in double figures with 23 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field, including 2-for-5 from three-point range, and 11-for-11 from the free throw line. It was Harris' 28th double figure game of the year and his 16th of 20 points or more. 

Spenser Mitchell added 17 points, and Ron Foxx and Chim Kadima chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively in the win. Foxx also added 11 rebounds for his eight double-double of the season. 

The Lions, the No. 2 seed in the regional, jumped out quickly on the Tigers (17-11) in the first half leading by as many as 13 points, 20-7, with 10:37 on the clock, when Ryan Wilson hit one of Saint Leo's two three-point shots in the first stanza. 

Mitchell would then give the Lions, what would be their biggest lead of the game, 31-15, on a jumper with 2:50 left in the half. 

The Lions eventually took a 36-25 lead into the locker room at the intermission. Saint Leo shot 47.8 percent (11-for-23) from the field in the first half, and the Tigers hit just 36.4 percent (8-for-22) of their shots. They also forced West Alabama into seven first half turnovers that led to nine points.   

The Tigers, the No. 7 seed in the regional, started the second half cutting the Saint Leo double digit lead to eight points, just 1:58 in, on a Tillman Lleon three-point play. The Lions, however, would go on an 8-0 run over a 42 second stretch to get the Saint Leo advantage back to 16, 48-32. During the run Harris would hit a three-point shot, followed by Kadima connecting on a traditional three-point play. Kadima would then steal a pass, on the ensuing West Alabama possession, and drive the length of the court for a dunk. 

The Tigers then made things interesting. After Harris put Saint Leo up 11, 68-57, with 3:01 left in the game, West Alabama would go on a 7-0 run to cut the Lions' lead to four points, 68-64. 

That would be as close as the Tigers would get the rest of the way. Saint Leo connected on 7-of-8 free throws, including 6-for-6 from Harris, to secure the win.   

Although West Alabama would shoot an improved 49.9 percent (15-for-32) in the second half, Saint Leo was a blistering 72.2 percent (13-for-18) from the floor in the final 20 minutes of play. 

For more on the Saint Leo University men's basketball team visit SaintLeoLions.com. Also be sure 'Like' the Lions on Facebook and 'Follow' the Lions on Twitter and Instagram.