GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Saint Leo men’s basketball team kicked off their 2009-10 season on one of the biggest stages in college basketball as they fell 95-46 to the University of Florida Gators in front of almost 9,000 fans in exhibition action from Florida’s Stephen O’Connell Center on Monday night.
Despite the fact that both teams were playing in their first competition of the new season, it was the Gators who quickly shook off the preseason rust and opened up a large lead. Earning a double-digit advantage just five minutes into the contest, the O’Connell Center iron was friendlier to the hosts than it was to the Lions. After seniors Eric Sharper and Jordan Prais started the SLU scoring with a free throw and a layup in the opening minutes, the Lions would go cold from the field and not score again until a Sharper layup seven minutes into the half.
While the Lions were having trouble getting comfortable, the Gators had the hot-hand, at one point going 7-for-7 from the field over a five minute span to open up a 20-point lead.
The Lions would settle down and begin to find their stroke, but Florida would keep the margin comfortable into the half.
Coming out of the lockers, it was the host Gators who lost their touch early on as Saint Leo held them to just three points through the first five minutes. While the defense was working on one side of the ball, the SLU offense managed to connect on some shots to keep the Saint Leo fans in attendance cheering.
Ultimately, the larger size and speed of their Division I opponents became the turning point in the second half as the Gators would push the lead to nearly 50 points as both Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan and Saint Leo Head Coach Mike Madagan would empty their benches, allowing a number of players to get court-time.
Although it was in a losing effort, Saint Leo managed to hit the hardwood as a team for the first time in the season and see how they performed as a group and what they need to work on heading into their next exhibition with the University of Central Florida.
UF finished the game at 53 percent shooting and out-rebounded the Lions 51-to-38.
Florida held Saint Leo to 22.7 percent shooting (15-for-66) as they were only 1-for-21 (4.8 percent) from behind the arc.
Prais and Jamal Thompson led Saint Leo with 11 points apiece.
The Lions will head to Orlando for their next exhibition of 2009-10 as they face Central Florida on Wednesday night from the UCF Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.