GAINESVILLE, FL - A cold-shooting first half, along with the size and athleticism of a Southeastern Conference foe, proved too much to overcome as Florida Southern College men's basketball suffered a 95-70 loss in an exhibition contest at Florida on Tuesday night at the O'Connell Center. The Moccasins were held scoreless for nearly the first three minutes as the Gators jumped out to an 8-0 lead, seized the early momentum, and took a 54-34 advantage into halftime.
Florida Southern did play much better in the second half and, despite the loss, the Mocs saw several players shine against one of the nation's top Division I programs. Jonathan Lawton put up a game-high 25 points while freshman Kai Cleary nearly picked up a double-double. The Moccasins will open the regular season on Nov. 9 against West Alabama.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Florida Southern found itself in an early hole as it missed four-straight shots to open the game before Ben Marello hit a three-pointer with 17:09 on the clock to put the Mocs on the board and cut the early deficit to five (8-3). After falling behind by as many as 11 points in the opening 10 minutes, Southern was able to cut the deficit back to single digits (20-11) on Kai Cleary's fast-break layup at the 11:56 mark.
- Following Cleary's bucket, the Gators blew the game wide open with a 13-0 run to take a 33-11 lead with just over nine minutes left. Florida led by as many as 29 points in the first half but the Moccasins outscored the Gators 15-6 over the final four and a half minutes, and FSC entered the locker room trailing 54-34.
- Florida Southern's momentum carried over in the early stages of the second half as the Mocs hit three buckets in the first three minutes to cut UF's lead to 17 (57-40) with 18 minutes left to play. The Gator's lead would fall to just 15 (57-42) when Jack Rauch connected on a layup with 17:16 to play. Florida responded with an 8-0 run to grab a 65-42 lead just two minutes later, but the Moccasins were able to chip away at the lead and found themselves down by just 14 (75-61) when E.J. Dambreville drilled a three-pointer to cap off a 19-10 run at the 8:37 mark.
- It would be all the closer the Mocs would get as Florida found its footing and outscore Florida Southern 20-9 the rest of the way to grab the win Lawton led all scorers with 25 points, while Cleary fell just shy of a double-double with 11 points and seven rebounds. The Gators were paced by six players in double figures, including Jalen Hudson's team-high 13 points. The Mocs shot 38.6 percent (27-of-70) from the floor and 8-of-10 at the free-throw line. Florida connected on 50.0 percent (35-of-70) of its shots and outrebounded Florida Southern by a 48-34 tally.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Tuesday's meeting marked the first time the Mocs and Gators have met on the hardwood since 2013, then Florida picked up a 110-88 win in an exhibition game.
- Earlier in the day, it was announced that Florida Southern was ranked No. 22 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) preseason poll. The Moccasins were the only Sunshine State Conference team ranked in the top 25.
- Florida Southern will square off with West Alabama at 3 p.m. on Nov. 9 in the regular-season opener and will take on Delta State on Nov. 10. The Moccasins will play their first regular-season road game at Southern New Hampshire (Nov. 17).