SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo men’s basketball team could have punched their own ticket to the 2010 Sunshine State Conference Basketball Tournament, but the Lions could not pull out the Senior Day victory as they dropped a 78-73 overtime decision to Barry University.
The Lions (11-19, 4-12 SSC) ended their regular season on a sour note after leading by as much as eight points in the second half. The Bucs (17-10, 8-8 SSC) would quickly erase that deficit as they would draw even with 11 minutes to play in regulation.
Back-and forth basketball would ensue for the remainder of the half as the lead would change hands three times and the score would be tied four times in the final 10 minutes.
With the visitors leading by two, freshman Matt Kendrick hit a jumper from the elbow with exactly a minute to go. The Lions would then see a perfect opportunity to take the lead when they corralled a missed BU attempt with 43 seconds left. Setting up a play, senior Jordan Prais would pick up his dribble just outside the paint, trying to find a way around his defender, Prais would lose grip of the ball and inadvertently double-dribble and hand possession to Barry.
Running the clock with the score tied at 65, the Bucs looked to take the final shot of the game, but senior Tony Dennison would lose control of the ball and watch it trickle out of bounds with just two seconds left.
Saint Leo would try a miracle heave from NBA three-point range as Josue Vazquez gave it a heave, but it would sail wide and send the game into extras.
In the extra session, the Lions would take a quick lead on a Jeremy Jackson basket, but the visitors from Miami Shores would knot the score again, this time from the free-throw line when Dennison drained both his opportunities.
After a Lion miss, Dennison hit a jumper from distance to give the Bucs the 69-67 lead. The Bucs would then force the Lions into consecutive turnovers, capitalizing both times with two points on each possession.
With just 43 seconds to go and the score now 75-68, the Lions saw Prais connect on a jumper to cut the Bucs lead to five. The Prais basket would be too little, too late as Saint Leo could not cash in on additional possessions, missing two 3-point shots with less than 25 seconds left.
After Barry took possession and was fouled, Dennison would drain two free throws with just five seconds left. The Lions would then see Dominick Robinson connect on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to close the final gap to 78-73.
The Lions would finish the game outshooting the Bucs 41.1-to-40.6 percent as both teams connected on 8-of-23 treys. The biggest difference came from the charity stripe, where Barry hit 18 free throws and was 69.2 percent for the evening, while Saint Leo shot a dismal 8-of-13 from the free-throw line and was just 38.5 percent. The difference in accuracy, which has been a problem all season, proved to be the deciding factor in the game.
As in their other game against the Buccaneers where Jordan Prais became the all-time scoring leader in SLU history, the loss again overshadowed another record-breaking day from Prais. With his 11 rebounds, the senior passed Mike O’Brien for the all-time lead in rebounding. He finished the evening with 870 career boards.
Prais led the Lions with his 12th double-double of the season behind a 25-point, 11-rebound night. The only other Saint Leo player in double-figures was freshman Dominick Robinson who added 12 points in the loss.
Freshman Matt Kendrick was again a big defensive factor as he finished nine rebounds and six blocks. He finishes his first regular season with the Lions with 63 blocks.
The Buccaneers were sparked by two 20-point performers. Dennison bucketed a game-high 26 and senior Erick Nsangou added a quiet 20.
Now the Lions await the result of the Florida Tech/Lynn contest to see if they will be seeded in the upcoming conference tournament, or if they will be left on the outside, looking in.
Stay tuned to SaintLeoLions.com for an update on Sunday.