SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo men’s basketball team opened the home side of their 2009-10 season in shaky fashion as they dropped an 80-74 decision to visiting Warner University in non-conference action from the Bowman Center on Tuesday evening.
Both teams found themselves in a back and forth battle early on as each team held a slim lead before the first timeout. The Royals opened up a five-point advantage just three minutes in, but SLU would respond with a 10-2 run over the next five minutes that was capped off with a resounding dunk from newcomer Jeremy Jackson that seemed to spark the Lions.
Warner would stay within their game and outdo the Lions hot-streak with a response of their own in the form a 12-2 run that opened up a seven-point cushion heading into the under-10 media timeout.
The margin would hover around seven points for the next four minutes before back-to-back layups from SLU senior-forward Josue Vazquez cut the Royal lead to just three, but Warner would again respond.
The visitors from Lake Wales answered Saint Leo again, this time closing out the half on a 16-7 run where the Royals hit 5-of-6 shots before a desperation trey at the buzzer rattled out. When the half came to a close, Warner had pushed the margin to 12, taking a 40-28 lead into the lockers.
Out of the intermission, the teams would trade baskets for the first five minutes as Saint Leo could not manage to get a run on the Royals. Warner would push their cushion to as much as 18 by the 11-minute mark of the second half before the Lions would seriously cut into the Royals advantage over the next five minutes.
Behind Jackson and senior Jordan Prais, who both suddenly had the hot touch, they had the Royal lead down to just eight with five minutes left. After that, SLU’s hot hand would cool as the hosts would only be able to slice one additional point off the Warner advantage as both teams shot 13 free throws in the last 95 seconds to finish the game.
The two most noticeable stats for the evening show that Saint Leo only drained one trey, a 3-pointer by Matt Salay at the five-minute mark of the first half, as the Lions shot just 1-for-14 from behind the arc; and the other stat was in rebounding, as Warner had nearly a 2-to-1 margin on the boards. The Royals pulled down 46 total rebounds while the Lions only managed 25, getting out-rebounded 29-to-15 on the defensive glass.
In a matchup that saw both teams shoot over 47 percent, with 94 total points coming in the paint, the Lions were led by Prais, who shot 10-for-14 and scored 23 points in 26 minutes. Jackson and Vazquez were the only other Lions in double-figures with 13 and 12 points respectively.
Warner’s Derell Henderson was the star for the visitors as he dropped in 25 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead Warner in the victory.
Still in search of their first home win, Saint Leo will try to rebound against the University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras, who come into the Bowman Center on Saturday afternoon. The game is scheduled to get underway at 2:00 p.m.