LAKELAND, FL - A strong offensive showing in the second half made up for a slow start in the first half as Florida Southern College men's basketball raced past Lynn, 80-70, in the quarterfinals of the Sunshine State Conference Tournament on Wednesday at Jenkins Field House. The Moccasins (20-9) shot a blistering 62.1 percent (18-of-29) from the floor in the second half, including 10-of-15 from long range, to send the Fighting Knights (14-13) packing and earn a trip to Saturday's semifinal round.
Trey Diggs scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half, and Brett Hanson (23) and Jonathan Lawton (24) put together strong performances to send Florida Southern to its eighth-straight win and secure a matchup with second-seeded Eckerd at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in the SSC semifinals at Jenkins Field House. The winner will face either Barry or Rollins on Sunday at 1 p.m. for the Sunshine State Conference Tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Florida Southern looked like it might blow the doors off Lynn as it raced out to a 7-0 lead in the first three minutes of action but after grabbing a 10-2 lead with 16:19 to go in the opening period, the Mocs went cold and did not score for nearly eight minutes as the Knights cut the deficit to two (10-8). Lawton finally ended the scoring drought with a pair of free throws at the 8:32 mark to spur on a 7-0 run that saw FSC snag a 17-8 lead.
• The Knights were able to battle back and slice the deficit to just two (19-17) with just over four minutes to go, but the Moccasins were able to build the lead back to as many as seven points in the final three minutes and led by four (27-23) at the break. Florida Southern, which had been on fire from the floor over the previous seven games, shot just 38.5 percent in the first half but used a stifling defensive effort to hold Lynn to a measly 25.0 percent (7-of-28) from the floor in the first frame.
• Although the Mocs never trailed in the contest the Knights were able to tie things at 39-39 nearly six minutes into the second half, but Lawton would connect on a layup and a three-pointer in the following moments to push FSC's lead to 44-39. Florida Southern put its foot on the gas and extended its lead to as many as 12 points (71-59) with a shade under five minutes to go. However, Lynn struck with a 6-0 run to slice the deficit in half (71-65) with 2:48 to go but the Mocs stayed in front and a three-pointer from Diggs with 1:14 to go put the nail in the coffin and the Moccasins up by 10 (78-68) en route to a massive victory.
• Florida Southern finished the night at 50.9 percent (28-of-55) from the floor, including 14-of-29 from three and 10-of-14 at the free-throw line. The Knights were limited to 36.2 percent (25-of-69) from the floor and 26.9 percent (7-of-26) from long range but did connect on all 13 free-throw attempts. Lynn finished with a 43-31 edge in rebounds, but the Mocs outscored the Knights 23-2 on the fast break.
• Lawton scored his 24 points on a 6-of-13 performance from the field and hit 9-of-10 free throws. He also grabbed three rebounds and dished out three assists. Hanson finished 10-of-17 from the floor and also tallied three assists, while Diggs connected on 7-of-12 from the floor and 6-of-9 from three. He led Florida Southern with seven rebounds, while Slinky Jones and Ben Marello each pulled down five boards.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• Florida Southern improved to 39-13 all-time against Lynn, including 19-7 when facing the Knights at Jenkins Field House. The Moccasins also improved to 5-1 when squaring off with Lynn in the SSC Tournament, and pushed their SSC Tournament record to 69-16 all-time. The Moccasins are now 20-8 all-time in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament.
• The Moccasins have shot 50.0 percent or better in six of their last eight games, while Lawton has eclipsed 20 points six times during the win streak. He has scored in double figure in 28 games this year and gone over the 20-point mark a total of 19 times. Hanson has tallied 20 or more points in six of the last seven games. Diggs has scored at least 20 in each of the last two games, and has hit six or more three-pointers in five different games this year.
• The Moccasins will face Eckerd in Saturday's semifinals. Florida Southern is 25-4 all-time in SSC Tournament semifinal games, and 10-4 when facing the Tritons in the tournament. Florida Southern is 8-2 when taking on Eckerd in the semifinals, and picked up an 82-76 win over the Tritons when the teams last played in the semifinals in the 2014 SSC Tournament.
• Florida Southern and Eckerd will meet at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday for the chance to play in the SSC Tournament Championship game. The winner will face either top-seeded Barry or No. 4 seed Rollins at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The winner will earn the SSC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.