Sets up a showdown with No. 3 seed Delta State on Sunday at 5 p.m.
LAKELAND, Fla. – The Saint Leo University men's basketball team came out of the gate quickly on Saturday and then hung on in the end for a 75-67 win over West Alabama in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament South Regional at Florida Southern College's Jenkins Fieldhouse.
The win improves the Lions to 24-8 on the year. They will now face Delta State University on Sunday at 5 p.m. in the regional semifinal. The Statesmen defeated Barry, 82-77 in overtime in the first game of the day.
Jerrel Harris led four Saint Leo players in double figures with 23 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field, including 2-for-5 from three-point range, and 11-for-11 from the free throw line. It was Harris' 28th double figure game of the year and his 16th of 20 points or more.
The Lions, the No. 2 seed in the regional, jumped out quickly on the Tigers (17-11) in the first half leading by as many as 13 points, 20-7, with 10:37 on the clock, when Ryan Wilson hit one of Saint Leo's two three-point shots in the first stanza.
Mitchell would then give the Lions, what would be their biggest lead of the game, 31-15, on a jumper with 2:50 left in the half.
The Lions eventually took a 36-25 lead into the locker room at the intermission. Saint Leo shot 47.8 percent (11-for-23) from the field in the first half, and the Tigers hit just 36.4 percent (8-for-22) of their shots. They also forced West Alabama into seven first half turnovers that led to nine points.
The Tigers, the No. 7 seed in the regional, started the second half cutting the Saint Leo double digit lead to eight points, just 1:58 in, on a Tillman Lleon three-point play. The Lions, however, would go on an 8-0 run over a 42 second stretch to get the Saint Leo advantage back to 16, 48-32. During the run Harris would hit a three-point shot, followed by Kadima connecting on a traditional three-point play. Kadima would then steal a pass, on the ensuing West Alabama possession, and drive the length of the court for a dunk.
The Tigers then made things interesting. After Harris put Saint Leo up 11, 68-57, with 3:01 left in the game, West Alabama would go on a 7-0 run to cut the Lions' lead to four points, 68-64.
That would be as close as the Tigers would get the rest of the way. Saint Leo connected on 7-of-8 free throws, including 6-for-6 from Harris, to secure the win.
Although West Alabama would shoot an improved 49.9 percent (15-for-32) in the second half, Saint Leo was a blistering 72.2 percent (13-for-18) from the floor in the final 20 minutes of play.
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