LAKELAND, FL - Slinky Jones hit a layup at the buzzer and Jonathan Lawton scored six points in the final two minutes to lift Florida Southern College men's basketball to an 80-78 victory over Saint Leo in the quarterfinal round of the Sunshine State Conference Tournament on Wednesday night at Streamline Sale Arena at Jenkins Field House. The Moccasins (22-7) trailed the Lions (13-16) by five with less than three minutes to go, but outscored Saint Leo 10-3 over the final 2:54 of action to advance to Saturday's SSC Tournament semifinal.
Brett Hanson led the Mocs with 29 points and Lawton added 24 to help Southern advance to its second-straight SSC Tournament semifinal. The Moccasins will face No. 2 seed Lynn on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Rick Case Arena on the campus of Nova Southeastern University.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- In a wild game that featured 14 ties and 24 lead changes, both teams came out hot offensively, combining to knock down 12-of-21 three-pointers in the first half. Hanson got the Mocs on the board first with a three on Southern's opening possession, and neither team led by more than two points until the 11:39 mark of the opening half when Saint Leo took a 22-18 lead.
- Florida Southern would battle back to take its largest first-half lead (39-35) with 3:09 remaining in the first and, despite surrendering the lead moments later, was able to rally to take its four-point advantage into the locker room at the half with a 47-43 edge.
- The Moccasin lead would remain intact early in the second half until Saint Leo hit a three with 16:07 left in the game to go up 51-49. The teams would again trade the lead several times until the Lions were able to get a five-point cushion (75-70) with just 4:01 on the clock.
- With 2:54 to play Jones made a layup to pull the Mocs within three (75-72), and Lawton scored the next six points to give Southern a 78-75 edge with 1:05 to play. Saint Leo hit a three-pointer with 13 seconds remaining to tie, but Jones was able to able to grab the rebound off Lawton's missed jumper and nailed the game-winner as time expired.
- Florida Southern finished the night shooting 47.0 percent (31-of-66) from the floor, including 7-of-15 from long range, and outrebounded the Lions 39-36. The Mocs dominated on the interior, outscoring Saint Leo 36-20 in the paint.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 91-22 all-time against Saint Leo, including 53-8 at home and 8-2 when facing the Lions in the SSC Tournament. The Moccasins are 70-17 all-time in the conference tournament including a 21-7 mark in the quarterfinal round.
- Wednesday's game marked the 42nd-straight appearance for Florida Southern in an SSC Tournament. The Mocs have won 23 SSC Tournament titles.
- The Moccasins turned the ball over just eight times on Wednesday, as Saint Leo scored just three points off turnovers.
- Florida Southern will take on second-seeded Lynn in the SSC Tournament semifinals at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. The winner will face either No. 1 Nova Southeastern or No. 5 Barry on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. for the conference tournament title. The SSC Championship game will be broadcast live on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.