LAKELAND, FL - Jonathan Lawton scored 24 points and Ja'Kwan "Slinky" Jones came up with a huge block in the closing seconds as Florida Southern College men's basketball slipped past Palm Beach Atlantic, 75-73, in Sunshine State Conference action on Saturday at Jenkins Field House. The Moccasins (2-2, 1-1 SSC) used timely defense and a great performance at the free-throw line to top the Sailfish (4-3, 1-1) for the fifth-straight time.
The Mocs will play two non-conference contests next week at the Terrace Hotel Thanksgiving Classic. Florida Southern will face Le Moyne on Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. before taking on Midwestern State at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 25.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Florida Southern struck first when Jones drilled a three-pointer just over a minute into the first half, but the Sailfish answered with a three of their own on the next possession to tie it up and neither team was able to get much early separation. After PBA hit a free throw to draw within one (18-17) with 10:02 remaining in the first half, the Mocs answered with a 7-0 run to take a 25-17 lead and went up by nine (28-19) when Lawton connected from long range with 6:50 to play.
• The Moccasins were able to get in front by double digits (31-21) when Lawton hit another three just over a minute later and Florida Southern would lead by as many as 14 points (39-25) in the final minute of the half and took a 39-25 lead into the locker room.
• In the opening moments of the second half, Palm Beach Atlantic began to chip away at the deficit and got within eight points (42-34) with 16:46 left to play. Florida Southern responded to go up by 11 points (51-40) with 12:56 on the clock, but the Sailfish battled back to draw within four (67-63) with just under six minutes to go. After going back up by nine (72-63) with 4:58 left in the game, the Mocs would hit an offensive slump and failed to score until Lawton hit a free throw with 1:05 left. The scoring drought would allow PBA to go on an 8-0 run to get within one (72-71) before Lawton's free throw.
• With 29 seconds to go, Grant Gullett would grab an offensive rebound for Palm Beach Atlantic and drew a foul before hitting a pair of free throws to tie things up at 73-73. Lawton would raw a foul for Florida Southern with 15 seconds left and hit a pair of free throws to give the Mocs a 75-73 lead. Gullett would go up for the game-tying layup with six seconds left but Jones came up with his fifth block of the night and the Sailfish were unable to hit a buzzer beater as Florida Southern earned a hard-fought victory.
• Florida Southern shot 40.0 percent (24-of-60) from the floor, including 9-of-23 from long range, and connected on 18-of-24 free-throw attempts. Palm Beach Atlantic shot 46.4 percent but hit just 6-of-18 three-pointers and went just 15-of-24 at the charity stripe. The Sailfish finished with a slim 38-36 edge in rebounds, but the Mocs had seven blocks while PBA finished with one.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• Florida Southern improved to 27-4 all-time against Palm Beach Atlantic including a perfect 16-0 mark at home. The victory marked the fifth-straight win for the Mocs in the all-time series against the Sailfish.
• Lawton scored 20 or more points for the third game in a row and had led the Moccasins in scoring in three of his first four games in an FSC uniform. He finished 11-of-12 at the free-throw line in the game and has hit 21-of-26 at the charity stripe this season. Florida Southern scored 26 points off turnovers, 24 points in the paint, 10 fast break points and five second-chance points.
• Florida Southern will host the Terrace Hotel Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 24-25. The Mocs will face Le Moyne at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 24 and Midwestern State at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 25. The tournament also features Saint Leo vs. Midwestern State at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 24 and Saint Leo vs. Le Moyne at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 25.