LAKELAND, FL - A pair of late three-pointers by Jonathan Lawton helped Florida Southern College men's basketball pick up its biggest win of the season in an 87-82 victory of fifth-ranked Nova Southeastern on Saturday evening at Streamline Sale Arena at Jenkins Field House. The Moccasins (16-4, 9-3 SSC) moved one step closer to the top of the Sunshine State Conference standings by handing the No. 5 Sharks (17-2, 11-2) just their second loss of the season.
Florida Southern built a double-digit lead early in the second half but had to overcome a late surge by NSU that put the Sharks up late in the game. Trailing 78-77 with just 2:11 left to play, Lawton nailed a three-pointer to give the Mocs an 80-78 lead and FSC hit several clutch free throws down the stretch to avenge a late December loss to Nova Southeastern and keep itself in the hunt for an SSC regular-season title.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Florida Southern got off to a phenomenal start as it built a 16-8 lead over the first four-plus minutes of action. The Mocs led by as many as nine points (23-14) in the opening 10 minutes of action before the Sharks tied the contest at 29-29 on Nick Smith's three-pointer at the 7:57 mark. Nova Southeastern would go up 31-29 on its next possession but a 4-0 run by the Mocs put Southern back in front as the teams went neck-and-neck to the end of the first half with FSC in front by one (40-39).
- Brett Hanson set himself up for a monster night with 13 points and six rebounds in the first half, while Lawton tallied 11 and Slinky Jones had seven. The Mocs shot 48.6 percent over the first 20 minutes of play while holding the Sharks to 44.4 percent.
- Leading by one (42-41) early in the second half, the Moccasins mounted an 11-1 run that saw their lead swell to 11 points (53-42) at the 14:32 mark of the period. The Mocs led by as many as 12 points (59-47) when E.J. Dambreville threw down one of the top dunks of the year with 12:40 to play, but the Sharks rallied back with a 17-2 run that gave them a 64-61 lead on Dwayne Gibson, Jr.'s three with 7:38 to play.
- Lawton was fouled on a three-pointer on the ensuing possession and hit each of his three free throws to tie things back up (64-64) and the teams traded jabs over the next several minutes before Lawton hit a three-pointer with 2:11 on the clock, his second in a 20-second span, to put FSC in front for good (80-78). The final minutes saw the Moccasins connect on 4-of-5 free throws to come away with a massive victory.
- Hanson finished the night with 25 points and 18 rebounds, while Lawton scored 29 and dished out three assists to go with six rebounds. Jack Rauch fell just shy of a double-double with seven points and 11 rebounds, while Jones ended the game with 11 points and Ben Marello had nine. Gibson, Jr. paced the Sharks with a game-high 30 points, while teammates Mark Matthews (25) and Smith (15) also scored in double figures.
- Florida Southern shot 44.3 percent from the floor and went 22-of-29 at the charity stripe while Nova Southeastern hit 41.9 percent of its shots but went just 10-of-21 at the free-throw line. The Mocs finished with a 47-44 edge in rebounds and outscored the Sharks 44-36 in the paint.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 30-8 all-time against Nova Southeastern, including a 19-2 record when facing the Sharks at home. The Sharks entered the game ranked No. 5 in the latest NABC Coaches Poll and marked the highest ranked opponent the Moccasins have defeated since a 79-76 win over No. 3 Bellarmine in the NCAA Division II Championship semifinals on March 26, 2015.
- Hanson's 18 rebounds marked the first time in nearly two years that an FSC player hauled in more than 15 rebounds. He had a career-high 20 in a 110-100 win over Embry-Riddle on Feb. 11, 2017.
- Hanson continued his ascent up the all-time scoring list at Florida Southern by pushing his career total to 1,295. He ranks 17th in school history in scoring. Hanson needs just 122 more points to move into the top 10 and is on pace to score more than 1,800 points in his career. Only four other Moccasins have ever surpassed 1,800 career points.
- Lawton increased his FSC scoring total to 1,127 to move into 23rd-place in school history in scoring. He has scored a total of 1,690 points in his collegiate career after tallying 563 points in two seasons at St. Thomas Aquinas. He is 18th in career scoring among active NCAA Division II players.
- Florida Southern will host Florida Tech at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday before heading to Embry-Riddle for a 6 p.m. contest on Saturday, Feb. 9.