SAINT LEO, Fla. – Back on the home hardwood for the new year, the Saint Leo men’s basketball team had the perfect opportunity to earn their first Sunshine State Conference victory, but instead the Lions faltered and allowed visiting Lynn University to capitalize on a turnover in the final 30 seconds to pull out the 75-73 win in conference action at the Bowman Center on Saturday afternoon.
Down by 18 at one point in the second half, the Lions got the hot stroke in the final five minutes. Trailing by six points with over three minutes left, SLU benefitted from a Jordan Prais three-pointer and then the crowd was brought back into the contest when senior Eric Sharper picked up a Jeremy Jackson miss and jammed it home to cut the margin to a single point.
Lynn (6-6, 1-1 SSC) would answer with a jumper to push the margin back to three before Jackson picked up a Prais pass and hit another trey right in front of the SLU bench to knot the game and get the Bowman Center rocking with under two minutes to go.
Saint Leo’s (5-9, 0-2 SSC) first opportunity to take the lead came after LU missed two free throws, but the Lions couldn’t find the rebound, instead letting the Fighting Knights pull down possession, get fouled and head back to the line. This time, Lynn would sink both free-shot opportunities.
With the clock heading under a minute and the Lions trailing by just two, Jackson would again come up big, sinking a running layup to again tie the game, this time at 73.
The final, deciding minute of the game saw Lynn miss their opportunity to retake the lead and SLU get the critical rebound and a timeout. Out of the break, and with just 30 ticks left, the Lions began to set up the final play, but LU junior Chris Hall swiped Matt Salay’s crossover dribble at nearly half court. Barely gaining possession, Hall slapped a pass to Rodney Kennedy, who sunk the layup with 12 seconds left.
With the final shot, and a two-point deficit, the Lions had one final look at the game winner, but Dominick Robinson’s off balance trey as time expired went wide and Lynn snuck out with the victory.
After a back-and-forth first half, where Lynn took a 38-31 lead into the lockers, the Fighting Knights came out and pushed their advantage to 18 points with just 10 minutes left, making the last-minute, two-point loss even more disappointing.
Prais had another solid night, albeit in a losing effort, as he scored a game-high 28 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, notching his seventh double-double in a row. The senior from Lakeland also dropped in two 3-pointers in his nine shots during his 38 minutes on the floor.
Jackson added 15 points and Salay came off the bench to add 11, draining 3-of-4 shots from behind the arc to help bring the Lions back into the game.
Chris Hall led the visitors with 16 points as he was one of four Fighting Knights in double figures.
Still looking to pick up their initial SSC win, the Lions will travel to face archrival Tampa on Wednesday. The Lions and Spartans will tip off at 7:30 p.m. in the Bob Martinez Sports Center.