FT. LAUDERDALE, FL - A stifling defensive effort by Florida Southern College men's basketball proved to be the difference in a 74-65 win over Lynn on Saturday night in the Sunshine State Conference Tournament semifinals at Rick Case Arena. The Moccasins (23-7) advanced to the SSC Tournament title game by holding the No. 22 Fighting Knights (23-6) to just 33.8 percent (22-of-65) from the floor, and will face top-seeded Nova Southeastern on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast live on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.
Slinky Jones (19 points) led four Mocs in double figures as Brett Hanson (17), Jonathan Lawton (15), and Ben Marello (11) rounded out a balanced offensive attack. Jack Rauch fell just shy of a double-double with nine points and a career-best 16 rebounds, and Florida Southern held Lynn to its worst shooting performance in over a month. The win puts Southern into the SSC Tournament title game for the 28th time in program history with a chance to win its 24th conference tournament title.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Florida Southern looked as if it might be in trouble early when it fell behind 9-3 on the opening four minutes of action, but the early returns for Lynn proved to be deceptive as the Mocs reeled off an 8-0 run to grab a two-point advantage (11-9) on DeAndre Campbell's free throw with 11:36 to go in the opening period.
- The teams swapped the lead three times in the next two minutes, but Hanson put Florida Southern on top with a pair of free throws at the 9:28 mark to make it 17-16. Lynn would tie things up with a free throw just one minute later, Jones nailed a jumper with just over eight minutes to go to put the Moccasins in front by two (19-17) and Florida Southern would never trail again.
- Leading by just three (25-22) in the final stages of the first half, the Mocs closed things out on a 5-1 run to take a 30-23 lead into the locker room at the half. Lynn shot just 26.7 percent (8-of-30) over the first 20 minutes of action.
- Florida Southern scored the first three points of the second half to take its first double-digit lead of the game (33-23) on a Jones jumper with 18:27 on the clock, and saw its lead swell to as many as 12 (43-31) with 14:37 to play. The Knights were able to battle back to pull within a single point (51-50) with just under five minutes to play, but the Mocs scored six in a row to take a 57-50 lead at the 4:06 mark.
- Leading by just five (57-52) with 3:46 to go, Florida Southern scored five in a row to go up by 10 (62-52) on Lawton's three-pointer with 2:40 on the clock and hit 12-of-14 free-throw attempts in the final two minutes to close things out.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 41-14 all-time against Lynn, including a 6-1 mark in the SSC Tournament. The Mocs are now 2-0 against Lynn in the SSC Tournament semifinals and 5-1 when facing the Knights on a neutral floor. The Moccasins improved 71-17 all-time in the conference tournament including a 26-5 mark in the semifinal round.
- The 65 points by Lynn on Saturday are the lowest by any Florida Southern opponent in an SSC Tournament semifinal since the Mocs defeated Tampa, 80-59, in the 2009 SSC Tournament.
- With the Florida Southern women's basketball team advancing to Sunday's SSC Championship, the Mocs have both a men's and women's team in the conference tournament final for the first time since 2012. Florida Southern won both the men's and women's tournament titles in 2003, and have won both titles in the same year a total of five times (1986, 1987, 1989, 1996, 2003).
- Florida Southern will face top-seeded Nova Southeastern at 4:05 p.m. on Sunday for the SSC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Sharks are ranked No. 3 nationally and No. 1 in the South Region. The Mocs, who currently rank No. 3 in the South Region, are in line to earn their second-straight NCAA Tournament bid.