ORLANDO, Fla. – The Saint Leo men’s basketball team closed out their exhibition schedule with a 84-65 loss to Division I opponent the University of Central Florida, Wednesday evening from the UCF Arena.
Despite the margin of victory, the Lions battled the Golden Knights closely for the majority of the first half, as they trailed by only four heading into the break, 37-33. However 18 points off of turnovers and an outstanding second-half shooting performance, led to Central Florida expanding the lead and closing with a 19-point win. Jamal Thompson was stellar on the evening, ending the contest with a team-high 19 points (7-for-16). Seniors Jordan Prais and Brandon Powell also had solid contests as they chipped in nine points apiece. Josue Vazquez came off the bench to total six points in the game (1-for-5), while Eric Sharper was the Lions’ leader on the boards bringing in six rebounds. Dominick Robinson also led the squad in assists with six.
Thompson wasted no time in putting the Lions up, as he hit a three to open up scoring in the contest. He later extended the SLU lead to 10-4 with his second three-point-basket in the first five minutes. Following a 12-1 run by Central Florida, the Lions cut the lead back to one at 16-15. However, the Golden Knights cushioned the lead once again, improving the score to 28-22. Still, Saint Leo did not quit as a pair of SLU baskets cut the lead back to two and a Thompson free throw tied the game at 30 with 3:00 minutes to play. Thompson continued to hit big shots as his third three-point-shot gave SLU a brief one point lead, 33-32. Althoughm the Golden Knights held the Saint Leo offense quiet the final two minutes, closing the half on a 5-0 run.
Out of intermission, Powell once again cut the UCF lead to one, 37-36, with a three-point-basket. Following the hoop, the Golden Knights went on a 14-6 run make the score 51-42. UCF, thanks to good free throw shooting, paced the lead at 11 over next five minutes of the game. With the Lions, not being able to break the 11-point barrier, the Golden Knights used the opportunity to go on their second 14-6 run of the game and extend their lead to 20, 76-56. The late run put the game out of reach for the Lions, as both team traded baskets over the final three minutes, resulting in the Lions second loss of the exhibition season.
In total, the Lions shot 36 percent from the floor (21-for-58), including 5-of-22 (22.7%) from the behind the three-point-line. SLU also improved their free throw shooting from their previous contest, making 17-of-23 (73.9 %) attempts.
The Green & Gold also caused problems on the defensive end for the Golden Knights, forcing 16 turnovers in which they converted into 20 points.
Saint Leo will waste no time getting into the regular season, as they will head to Orlando, Fla. for the Disney Tip-Off Classic. Their first challenge of the year will come via Southwest Baptist University, Friday, November 6th at the Disney Wide World of Sports Milk House. Tip-off for the game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.