ORLANDO, Fla. – The Saint Leo men’s basketball team (1-1) took to an early lead and never looked back as the Lions claimed an 86-78 victory, Saturday evening from the Milk House Center at the Disney Division II Tip-Off Classic. The non-conference win marked the first of the 2009-10 season for SLU.
Jordan Prais had a fantastic game for the Lions, as he converted his first double-double of the 2009-10 season. The senior forward scored 24 points and collected 13 rounds, as well as dishing a team-high five assists. Four other Lions scored in double figures, as junior guard Daniel Oliver scored 14 points in 23 minutes of action. He was followed by Jamal Thompson who dropped in 13 points, while Saladeem Dewberry and Brandon Powell each had 10-point outings. Senior Eric Sharper was disruptive on the defensive end, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking two shots.
Prais got the Lions rolling early, scoring the first basket of the game. A Thompson three pointer quickly extended the advantage to 5-0 as SLU grabbed a lead they never relinquished.
After the Lakers cut the lead to two, Prais and company took to the inside game to extend the Saint Leo lead back out to six, 14-8. Lake Superior State did their best to stay with the Lions eventually hitting one of their eight three point field goals to cut the lead to one. Still, the Lions continued to work the Lakers’ defense, scoring from the both the inside and outside. Thompson hit a second three pointer to give Saint Leo their first double-digit lead of the game and a Prais jumper handed the Lions their largest lead of the half, 16, with six minutes to play in the first.
With the score 34-18, the Lakers again tried chipping away at the lead, bringing it back down to 10 with 1:42 to play. However, Saint Leo did not allow the Lake Superior any chance at a big run as a stifling defensive unit and timely offense pushed the lead back to 14, 42-28, at the half.
Saint Leo hit the court running in the second period as a Powell three pointer pushed the score to 49-33 just two minutes into the half. Prais demonstrated his ability to score from the free throw line, as well, hitting two free throws to give the Lions a 21-point lead, their largest of the game, with 15 minutes to play.
The lead remained between 12 and 18 for the next 10 minutes before Lake Superior St. began to make an inevitable run. With just under five minutes to play, a pair of free throws sunk the lead back below double-digits and cut it down to as much as six with three minutes to play. However, clutch baskets by Dewberry and Oliver widened the advantage back to 11. Saint Leo iced the game by hitting five-of-six free throws down the stretch, helping preserve the Lions first victory of the season.
For the night, the Green & Gold had an outstanding shooting performance. From the floor, the team shot 53.8 percent (28-for-52) and 42.9 percent (9-for-21) from beyond the three-point-line. The Lions also held a one rebound advantage, 40-39, over Lake Superior St. and out-blocked their opponents 6-0.
Saint Leo concludes the Disney Division II Tip-Off Classic Sunday afternoon. The Lions will take on northeast challenger Philadelphia University from the Milk House Center in Orlando, Fla. with tip-off for the event scheduled for 4:45 p.m.