FT. LAUDERDALE - Florida Southern College men's basketball captured its 24th Sunshine State Conference Tournament title with a 92-84 win over top-seeded Nova Southeastern on Sunday afternoon at Rick Case Arena. The Moccasins (24-7) led for nearly 30 minutes of action to upset the No. 3 Sharks (26-3) as they held NSU's high-flying offense to just 36.1 percent from the floor in the first half and withstood a late charge to come away with the win and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Jonathan Lawton led Southern with 28 points, while Brett Hanson and Slinky Jones each had 16. The Mocs limited Nova Southeastern standout David Dennis to just 13 points on 5-of-15 and limited the Sharks to just 3-of-10 from long range in one of Florida Southern's best all-around defensive efforts of the year. The Moccasins will find out where they are seeded in the South Region tonight at 10:30 p.m. when the NCAA airs its Division II Selection Show live at 10:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Nova Southeastern scored first and held a 4-2 lead with 18:38 to go in the first half, but Jones hit a pair of free throws at the 18:27 mark to tie things up and Florida Southern never trailed again. The Mocs led by as many as four points in the early going, though the Sharks were able to tie several times, but the Moccasins never surrendered the lead and pushed its lead to five points (19-14) on DeAndre Campbell's three with just under 11 minutes remaining in the first.
- After NSU tied things up at 19-19 just moments later Campbell drilled another three to give the Mocs a 22-19 lead with 9:26 on the clock, and Florida Southern led for the remainder of the game. Ben Marello hit a three-pointer with a shade under six minutes left in the first half to give Southern a 33-23 lead and the Mocs led by as many as 12 points before taking a nine-point lead (44-35) into the locker room at the half.
- The Mocs were able to stay in front by at least five points in the early stages of the second half and went back up by 10 (57-47) on Hanson's layup at the 13:46 mark. Florida Southern grabbed its largest lead of the game (64-52) with just over 11 minutes to go and looked as if it might cruise to the win. However, NSU made things interesting by battling back with an 11-0 run to pull within a single point (64-63) at the 8:41 mark.
- Florida Southern was able to find its footing again and scored 21 of the next 33 points to take another double-digit lead (85-75) with 2:39 left. The Sharks would make one last push by dialing up full-court pressure that led to a 7-0 NSU run to make it 85-82 with 1:35 to go, but the Moccasins got a huge three from Jones with 38 seconds to go to make it 88-82, and hit four free throws down the stretch to come away with the win.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern won the SSC Tournament for a conference-record 24th time, and the first since 2015 when it went on to win the NCAA Division II national title. The Moccasins improved to 72-17 all-time in the SSC Tournament, including a 24-4 mark in the championship game. The Mocs improved to 3-0 all-time when facing Nova Southeastern in the SSC Tournament.
- NSU's total of three, three-pointers made were its lowest since only making three in a loss to Barry (3-of-16) on Nov. 30, 2016.
- With the win on Sunday, Florida Southern captured both the SSC Tournament title on the men's and women's sides for the sixth time in SSC Tournament history. No other SSC member institution has ever won both the men's and women's tournament titles in the same year.
- Hanson was named as the SSC Tournament MVP, while Lawton and Jones earned all-tournament honors.
- Florida Southern will find out its NCAA Tournament fate at 10:30 p.m. tonight when the NCAA airs its Division II Tournament Selection Show on NCAA.com. The Moccasins were ranked No. 2 in the latest South Region rankings, and have a shot to earn the No. 1 seed and host the South Regional for the first time since 2015.