LAKELAND, FL - Jonathan Lawton poured in a game-high 23 points as Florida Southern College men's basketball opened the 2018-19 season with a 76-68 victory over West Alabama on Friday afternoon at Streamline Sale Arena at Jenkins Field House. The No. 22 Moccasins (1-0) put together an incredible first half on offense by scoring 46 points in the first 20 minutes, and were able to hold off a late rally by the Tigers (0-1) to avenge last year's season-opening loss to UWA.
Florida Southern also got solid performances from Jack Rauch (15 points) and Kai Cleary (12) on the first day of the annual GSC-SSC Classic. The Mocs continue play on Saturday with a matchup against Delta State (7:30 p.m.), which dropped its season opener to Eckerd (85-78) earlier in the day.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- West Alabama was able to score the first points of the game when Josh Fleming hit a layup through contact and hit the ensuing free throw to make it 3-0 in the first 30 seconds of action. However, the Moccasins stormed back with an 11-0 run over the next four minutes to snag all the momentum. Lawton put the Mocs on the board with a long three at the 17:55 mark, and Brett Hanson ended the scoring run with a layup just two and a half minutes later.
- DeAndre Campbell's layup with 10:25 on the clock gave Florida Southern its first double-digit lead of the day (19-9) and E.J. Dambreville threw down a dunk just seconds later to force the Tigers to use a timeout with the Mocs leading 21-7 at the 10:07 mark of the half.
- The Moccasins would keep their foot on the gas and built their lead to 24 points (46-22) with just over a minute to go in the opening half. West Alabama was able to score twice in the closing minute to pull a tad closer, but the Mocs still led by 20 (46-26) at the half.
- Florida Southern was able to maintain its sizeable lead through the early stages of the second half and would jump in front by a game-high 26 points (59-33) on Cleary's layup with just under 12 minutes to go.
- The Mocs stayed in front by a comfortable margin for most of the rest of the game, although the Tigers were able to make a significant dent in their deficit. Florida Southern led by 14 (74-60) with 1:44 to go, but West Alabama did not go quietly as the Tigers were able to trim the deficit to the final margin of eight points over the last minute of action. A pair of free throws from Rauch in the closing moments put the game on ice, and the Moccasins picked up a season-opening win.
- Florida Southern shot 42.6 percent (29-of-68) from the floor, while West Alabama connected on 41.9 percent (26-of-62). The Tigers outrebounded the Moccasins 48-34 but committed 21 turnovers, which Southern converted into 25 points.
- Lawton finished 9-of-13 from the floor and made five of Florida Southern's seven three-point buckets. He also led the team in rebounds (8) while Rauch and Brett Hanson each finished with seven.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 3-3 all-time against West Alabama, snapping a three-game losing streak to the Tigers. Friday's meeting marked the fourth-straight year that West Alabama has faced the Mocs in the GSC-SSC Classic.
- Lawton inched closer to 1,000 career points at Florida Southern. He has scored 732 in 33 games for the Mocs and has 1,295 in his career. Lawton scored 563 in two seasons at St. Thomas Aquinas before transferring to FSC. Hanson upped his career scoring total to 960 and is poised to become the 42nd player in school history with 1,000 career points.
- The Mocs will square off with Delta State at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday to conclude their opening weekend of play. Florida Southern will hit the road for its first away contest of the year at Southern New Hampshire on Nov. 18.