LAKELAND, FL - Four different players scored in double figures as Florida Southern College men's basketball capped off a perfect opening weekend with a 79-74 win over Delta State on Saturday evening at Streamline Sale Arena at Jenkins Field House. The No. 22 Moccasins (2-0) got a huge second-half performance from Slinky Jones to help propel them over the Statesmen (0-2) in the final game of the GSC-SSC Classic.
Jones, who scored all 13 of his points in the final 20 minutes, was joined by veterans Jonathan Lawton (21) and Brett Hanson (15) and freshman Kai Cleary (12) as the four Mocs to score at least 10 points on the night. Florida Southern will head north next Saturday when it takes on Southern New Hampshire in its first road test of the season.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Florida Southern struggled early to adapt to Delta State's slow style of play, a huge difference from West Alabama's run-and-gun pace in Friday's season opener. The Moccasins struggled to find their offensive groove early on as the Statesmen were able to build a 15-9 lead by the 13:05 mark of the opening half. Delta State would stay in front for nearly the entire first half but the Mocs chipped away at the deficit until Lawton's three-pointer with 6:40 to go in the period gave Southern a 27-25 lead, its first since the opening two minutes of the contest.
- The Moccasins were able to build on the momentum from Lawton's three by extending their advantage to 10 points (37-27) when Cleary hit a pair of free throws at the 2:31 mark. Florida Southern led by nine (40-31) in the closing seconds of the first, but Delta State scored on Brett Warner's layup at the buzzer to slice the deficit to seven at the half.
- After being held scoreless in the first half, Jones caught fire early in the second period as he connected on a pair of three-pointers in the opening minute to help extend the lead to 12 points (46-34). The Statesmen were able to reel off a 12-0 run to pull even (46-46) with just under 16 minutes left to play. Delta State would eventually go in front by one (50-49) with 14:25 remaining for its first lead since early in the first half.
- Despite the swing in momentum, the Mocs were able to steady themselves over the next five-plus minutes thanks to a 17-8 run that put Florida Southern back up by eight (66-58) on DeAndre Campbell's layup with 9:06 to go. Delta State trimmed the deficit to two points (73-71) in the final three minutes and nailed a three-pointer with 18 ticks left to slice a six-point deficit to three (77-74), but Lawton sealed the victory with a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to give the Mocs the win.
- Lawton's game-high 21 points came on a 9-of-17 effort from the floor. He went 4-of-9 from long range and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. Hanson finished 7-of-14 from the floor and tied Cleary with a team-high six rebounds. Florida Southern shot 41.5 percent (27-of-65) from the floor, including 11-of-30 from beyond the arc, and was 14-of-18 at the free-throw line.
- Delta State was led on offense by Warner's 20-point effort, while Cedric Harper (16) and Matthew Wilson (12) also scored in double figures. The Statesmen won the rebounding battle by a 43-37 margin but committed 13 turnovers.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 6-3 all-time against Delta State, including a 3-0 record when facing the Statesmen at home. Saturday's meeting was the first between the teams in Lakeland since 1982.
- Hanson pushed his career scoring total to 976 points and is poised to become the 42nd player in school history with 1,000 career points. Lawton has now tallied 753 points during his time at Florida Southern. He has scored 1,316 points in his collegiate career after tallying 563 in his first two seasons at St. Thomas Aquinas.
- Saturday's win was the 239th career victory for head coach Mike Donnelly. He has won 44 games as the head coach at Florida Southern. With the win over Delta State, the Moccasins have now won seven-straight regular-season home games dating back to last year.
- Florida Southern will take on Southern New Hampshire (Nov. 18) in its first road contest of the season. The Mocs close out the first month of the season with three-straight home games against Merrimack (Nov. 23), Stonehill (Nov.24), and Tampa (Nov. 28).