LAKELAND, FL - A 48-point outburst in the second half helped erase a 24-point deficit as Florida Southern College men's basketball completed a massive comeback in an 86-83 win over Sunshine State Conference rival Saint Leo on Wednesday night at Streamline Sale Arena at Jenkins Field House. The Moccasins (14-4, 7-3 SSC) trailed 49-25 with five minutes to go in the first half but stunned the Lions (8-10, 5-5) by coming all the way back to take the lead two minutes remaining and hung on for the win.
Jonathan Lawton scored 29 points, 21 of which came in the second half, and Brett Hanson poured in 23 more to lift the Mocs to their fifth win in their last six games. Jack Rauch (15) and Ben Marello (12) also scored in double figures for a Florida Southern team that shot 50.0 percent (17-of-34) over the final 20 minutes of action.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Florida Southern found itself pinned to the ropes early as Saint Leo stormed out of the gates to the tune of a 22-6 lead in the opening eight minutes of play. It would only get worse from there as the Mocs fell further behind as Saint Leo built a lead of as many as 24 points (49-25) with 5:02 to go in the half.
- The Lions shot 56.3 percent (18-of-32) in the first half, including 8-of-12 from three-point range, as Kyran McClure put up 22 points for Saint Leo in the opening half. Despite the big deficit late in the half, the Mocs were able to pull within 15 (53-38) at the half.
- Hanson would drill a three-pointer early in the second half to slice the deficit to 10 points (57-47) and give Southern new life with 16:42 to go. The Lions jumped back up by 15 (63-49) just moments later, but that's when Florida Southern made its move and began its stunning second-half comeback.
- Over the next five minutes, the Mocs went on a 13-2 run that cut Saint Leo's lead to three (65-62) on Hanson's layup at the 11:31 mark. The Lions were able to stay in front until Lawton hit a layup with 2:39 to go to tie things at 78-78. Rauch hit a free throw just seconds later and Marello scored at the 1:31 mark to make it 81-78 in favor of the Mocs.
- After a three-pointer from Lawton with just over 50 seconds to go made it 84-80, Saint Leo connected from long range to pull within a single point (84-83) and nearly took the lead in the closing seconds. However, Yalen Reed missed the go-ahead layup with three seconds to go and Lawton corralled the rebound and nailed a pair of free throws to seal the win.
- Florida Southern shot 49.3 percent (33-of-67) from the floor, including 8-of-24 from long range, and went 12-of-17 at the charity stripe. Saint Leo hit 46.9 percent (30-of-64) of its shots, 10-of-20 from three-point range, and was 13-of-18 from the free-throw line. Rauch and Slinky Jones tied for a team-best nine rebounds apiece, while Jones also tallied three blocks and Hanson fished out five assists.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 90-21 all-time against Saint Leo, including a 52-8 record when facing the Lions at home. The Moccasins' win snapped the Lions' four-game win streak and marked its largest deficit overcome in at least a decade (research is ongoing).
- Hanson continued his ascent up the all-time scoring list at Florida Southern by pushing his career total to 1,259. He ranks 17th in school history in scoring. Hanson needs just 158 more points to move into the top 10 and is on pace to score more than 1,800 points in his career. Only four other Moccasins have ever surpassed 1,800 career points.
- Lawton increased his FSC scoring total to 1,079 to move into 29th-place in school history in scoring. He has scored a total of 1642 points in his collegiate career after tallying 563 points in two seasons at St. Thomas Aquinas. He is 18th in career scoring among active NCAA Division II players.
- Florida Southern has the weekend off before returning to SSC play on Jan. 30 at Tampa.