SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo University men’s basketball team saw four starters score 17 points or more as they outlasted the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras 84-70 in their final tune up before squaring off with Division I Cleveland State on Monday.
The Lions improve their young season’s record to 3-0 as they saw junior Jordan Prais score a game-high 21 points and senior Kyle Rowland bucket 20.
Rio Piedras kept the game close throughout the entire first half as they surprised the Lions, staying nearly even with Saint Leo from the opening tip. After a back-and-forth opening 10 minutes, UPR actually gained the largest lead of the first half at six points with six minutes to play, but the Lions but a quick run by SLU, sparked by a trey from Matt Salay, saw Saint Leo recapture the advantage for good just two minutes later.
After holding a slim 44-43 lead at the halftime buzzer, the Lions managed to increase the margin to seven points, where they would answer every Rio Piedras bucket with one of their own, taking their lead to as much as 15 in the final minute.
Free-throw shooting became a crucial part of the Lions’ second-half success as they answered a poor first-half showing with an 11-for-15 effort in the final stanza. For the contest, the Lions scored 24 points from the charity stripe, while Rio Piedras only saw 11 points come from free throws.
As a team, the Lions shot nearly 52 percent from the field and 44 percent from behind the three-point line. Prais’ 7-for-9 evening was accompanied by 17 points from both Salay and newcomer Josue Vazquez. Defensively, the Lions saw Prais and Anthony Gomez get three steals apiece while Gomez dished off five assists in the win.
Now the Lions turn their attention to Cleveland State University as they face the Vikings on Monday evening in the opening round of the CBE O’Reilly Auto Parts Classic. The game, being played at Florida International University in Miami, will tip off at 5:00 p.m. and be broadcast live on the Saint Leo Lions AudioCast Network.