ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Florida Southern College men's basketball nearly overcame a late double-digit deficit for the third-straight game, but could not finish off the rally in a 71-67 loss at Eckerd on Wednesday evening in Sunshine State Conference action. The Moccasins (4-3, 1-2 SSC) trailed by 18 points with less than eight minutes to play and battled back to take a two-point lead in the closing minute, but could not hang on as the Tritons (7-1, 2-1) held serve on their home court.
Florida Southern used lockdown defense to spur on the comeback but fan out of gas at the end. Jonathan Lawton gave the Mocs a 67-65 lead with 37 seconds to play, but Eckerd hit three free throws and a three-pointer down the stretch to pull out the win.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Florida Southern got off to a fast start, grabbing an 11-3 lead less than five minutes into the game and pushing its lead to 17-9 at the 13:07 mark of the opening period. Eckerd would battle back by using a 10-0 run to take the lead (19-17) with 10:27 on the clock, and would not surrender the lead until late in the second half.
• The Tritons took their first double-digit leads (33-23) with just over five minutes to go in the first half, but the Moccasins closed out the first half on an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to just four (35-31) at halftime and carried the momentum into the second half. Florida Southern scored the first four points of the second half to tie things at 35-35 with 19:14 to play.
• Over the next six-plus minutes, the Mocs would fail to score a point as the Tritons used the scoring drought to go on a 12-0 run and take a 47-35 lead with 12:33 to go. Lawton ended the scoring slump with a pair of free throws at the 12:17 mark to make it 47-37, but the Tritons would not let up and jumped in front by 18 points (60-42) with just over eight minutes of action remaining.
• Eckerd would hit a scoring drought of its own after making it 62-44 at the 6:48 mark. The Tritons would be held scoreless for the next three minutes as the Moccasins scored 12-straight points to trim the deficit to just six points (62-56) with 3:35 on the clock.
• Brett Hanson pulled Florida Southern even at 63-63 with 2:13 to go and both teams raced to the finish. After Eckerd took a 65-63 lead with just a shade with two minutes remaining, Lawton would score four-straight points to give the Mocs a 67-65 lead with 37 ticks left. The Tritons drew a foul on their next possession and hit the first of a pair of free throws to make it 67-66. On the ensuing missed free throw, Marco Behori grabbed the rebound and kicked it out to Blake Morrow, who drilled a three-pointer to put Eckerd up 69-67. The Mocs missed a chance to tie things with four seconds to play and had no choice but to foul in the closing seconds as the Tritons hit two more free throws to earn the four-point win.
• Lawton led the Moccasins with 21 points and tallied four assists and four steals. Brett Hanson scored 12 points, while Tyler Ross had 11 and Jack Rauch led Florida Southern with 11 rebounds. Florida Southern shot 39.7 percent (27-of-68) on the night while Eckerd connected at 40.4 percent (23-of-57). The Tritons also finished with a 43-38 edge in rebounds and each team dished out nine assists.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• Florida Southern fell to 69-38 all-time against Eckerd, including 26-22 when facing the Tritons on the road. Eckerd has won three-straight in the series against the Moccasins, with all three victories coming at the McArthur Center in St. Petersburg.
• Lawton scored 20 points for the fifth time this season. He is 11-of-11 at the free-throw line over the last two games and has made 87.8 percent (43-of-49) of his free throws this season. Rauch snagged double-digit rebounds for the third-straight game and the fourth time this season.
• The Moccasins went to the line just 10 times on Wednesday compared to 28 times for the Tritons, and Eckerd finished with a 19-7 scoring edge at the charity stripe. Despite finishing behind the Tritons in rebounds, Florida Southern did end the game with a 34-26 edge in the paint.
• Florida Southern heads to Nova Southeastern for an 8 p.m. game on Saturday. The Mocs are back home on Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. against Embry-Riddle in the first of five-straight home games to end the calendar year.