LAKELAND, Fla. – Behind a 20-point night from senior Marcus Ruh the No. 4 seed Saint Leo University men's basketball team advanced into the semifinal round of the NCAA South Region Tournament after a 59-53 victory over Rollins College on Saturday night.
In picking up the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament win, the Lions relied on their signature defense that has been a staple of Saint Leo Basketball since Head Coach Lance Randall assumed the reigns of the program two years ago.
The Lions held the Tars (19-11) to just 31.4 percent shooting from the field in adding another victory to their program-record 22-win season. Adjusting to the Rollins scheme, the tough Saint Leo defense shut down the Tars' Mitch Woods, who picked up 16 points and 10 rebounds in the SSC semifinal-round game the previous week. Tonight, Woods went just 1-for-7 from the field and could only muster seven points and three boards.
While it was a solid win for the Lions, the game was not without its thrilling and unusual moments.
In control of the first half and a good majority of the second, opening up a double-digit advantage a couple of times in the contest, the Lions were trying to put the game away in the final two minutes when Rollins suddenly cut the advantage to seven.
With just 1:15 on the clock and the Lions leading 52-44, Woods went to the line and connected on two free throws. As the final free throw bounced around the rim, Adams began to box out his opponent and apparently caught the Rollins player with an errant elbow. The elbow resulted in a technical foul and allowed Rollins to connect on two more free throws and get possession. Suddenly the Lions advantage was down to just four points and Rollins had possession.
It was up to the Saint Leo defense to make one final stand, which is exactly what happened. Rollins was forced to take a hurried three point attempt which didn't hit the rim, and then the Tars were forced to foul the Lions for the remainder.
The Lions managed to convert on nearly all of the free throws in the final few minutes to put a bow on their first NCAA Tournament win.
While the jubilation immediately after the game was amazing, the Lions know there is more work to be done, and the turnaround is almost immediate. Saint Leo will now face the South Region's top seed and host Florida Southern College (25-5) on Sunday night after the Mocs defeated North Alabama in the quarterfinals. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the George W. Jenkins Field House.