FT. LAUDERDALE, FL - Slinky Jones poured in a game-high 23 points as Florida Southern College men's basketball erased a seven-point halftime deficit to rally past Delta State, 78-72, in the first round of the NCAA South Regional on Saturday afternoon at Rick Case Arena. Jones had 17 of his game-high 23 in the second half as the Moccasins (25-7, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year.
The Statesmen (19-12) led by as many as 10 points in the opening minute of the second half, but the Mocs scored 50 points in the second half and led for the final 12:49 of action to advance to the regional semifinal, where they will face Lynn on Sunday at 5 p.m. for a spot in the South Region title game and a spot in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Trailing 9-7 in the opening five minutes of action, Southern reeled off an 8-0 run to take a 17-9 lead with 12:12 to go in the first. However, Delta State went on a 16-3 run of its own to go on top 25-20 as the Mocs hit a major cold stretch midway through the first half. Florida Southern was held scoreless for more than four minutes (8:57-3:53) before Jones broke the scoring drought with a three-pointer at the 3:53 mark to make it 25-23.
- Leading by just two (30-28) with just under two minutes to go, Delta State held the Mocs scoreless the rest of the way en route to a 35-28 halftime lead. Southern was held to just 42.9 percent from the floor in the first half while the Statesmen connected at a clip of 57.1 percent. The Mocs were able to keep it within single digits by outscoring DSU 9-1 at the free-throw line.
- Delta State scored the first three points of the second half to take a 38-28 lead, its largest of the day, with 19:17 left to play. But the Statesmen turned the ball over just moments later and Jones made them pay with another three-pointer to close the gap to 38-31 and begin the Moccasin rally.
- The basket was the start of a 12-2 run that tied the game at 40-40 on Jones' jumper with 15:53 to go, and the Mocs outscored the Statesmen 14-8 over the next five and a half minutes to take a 54-48 lead on E.J. Dambreville's three with 10:19 to play.
- Florida Southern led by as many as 11 points (64-53) with 7:47 to play, but Delta State was able to trim the deficit to just four points (73-69) with a little over two minutes to go. That's when Jones hit a dagger from long range to make it 76-69, and DSU was never able to recover as Jonathan Lawton hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds to make the final margin six points.
- Jones led all players with 23 points on 6-of-11 shooting and went 5-of-6 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed six rebounds and dished out two assists. Brett Hanson finished with 20 points, and Lawton tallied 17.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 46-31 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including a 2-1 record when facing Delta State. The Mocs are now 7-3 all-time when facing the Statesmen, with a 2-3 record in neutral-site contests. Southern improved to 14-17 all-time in the first round of regional play.
- Lawton scored in double figures for the 52nd-straight game, while Jones scored in double figures for the fourth time in the past five games, including each of the last three. Hanson has scored in double figures in 20-straight games.
- Earlier in the day on Saturday, Lawton was named as one of the 25 finalists for the Bevo Francis award, which is given to the top non-Division I men's basketball player in the country.
- Florida Southern will face Sunshine State Conference rival Lynn on Sunday at 5 p.m. in the regional semifinal. The meeting will be the fourth of the season between the schools after the Mocs knocked the Fighting Knights out of the SSC Tournament in the semifinal round a week ago. Southern went 2-1 against the Knights in the previous three meetings this year.