SAN ANTONIO, Fla. — The trees on campus are decorated with lights, the presents are appearing under the tree and for Saint Leo University, one special wrapped gift would be appreciated.
Nothing fancy — just a win over rival The University of Tampa. That would put a pretty bow on this holiday season. Saint Leo University’s wish was answered Saturday night, Dec. 14, the Lions started the holiday season with a 69-65, overtime win against the Spartans.
There was a special gift waiting for Saint Leo University basketball coach Lance Randall; he found his leading scorer and point guard Kyran McClure healthy and ready to go against the Spartans.
Randall said that McClure took it easy for most of the week and that the decision to play against the University of Tampa was day-to-day and just hours before the tip off.
McClure led the Lions with 24 points, shooting 50 percent from behind the arch but his biggest contribution was just the fact Randall and the Lions needed McClure on the floor to keep the order on the court for the Lions.
Randall and the Lions got a lot of help from post player Yalen Reed early in the game. He became the scorer that the Lions needed. Reed scored 20 points for the Lions and was able to grab 16 rebounds.
Reed is playing a new position because of the suspension to senior Isaiah Hill as a flagrant foul that was not called on the court back on Dec. 7, against Nova Southeastern University. The evidence is a video that was shot and released by Huffington Post News, which also went viral on YouTube and Yahoo.
“Yalen was a monster on the glass,” Randall said. “We said before the game that we would need 30 points from our big (players) and we got 31. Yalen had that huge block at the end. He was really active and we have not seen in awhile.”
University of Tampa basketball coach Richard Schmidt kept looking for his team to make adjustments and he was also looking for help from the referee. He criticized one of the referees of having the worst game of his officiating career.
In the first half the points for both teams were hard to find. There were a lot of stretches in the game when the offense got bogged down for both teams.
Saint Leo University defense is the No.1 defense in the Sunshine State Conference, only allowing just 66.7 points a game and the University of Tampa is last in the conference only scoring 66.8 points a game.
Randall said about his team’s effort playing defense, “That is what carried us. We turned it over way too much we didn’t execute we struggled for long stretches to make shots or even find them but our defense kept us hanging around. We were able to make enough plays.”
Leading the Lions from the floor, Yalen Reed scored 15 points in the first half.
In the second half that the Lions offense struggled, the Spartans found the basket and was able to get down the court before the defense could get set for the Lions.
University of Tampa guard Derrick Felder led his team with 25 points, as he was able to get the ball down the court. Felder pulled up and found teammate Jacob Harris and connected with the pass. Harris found the shot that was behind the three-point line and then he let the shot go. The ball sailed through the air, headed for the rim and then through the corded net for three points and the tie, that sent the game into overtime.
The play of the night that preserved the win for the Lions, even Schmidt thought that it was the biggest play of the game came with just nine seconds left in the overtime period.
Felder driving toward the Lions defense, he attempted a lay up only to have Reed put his entire hand on the ball and knocked the ball down where Lions guard Rusty Moore waited for the ball.
The next game for Saint Leo University will be a non conference game against Walsh University, Friday evening, December 20, starting at 5:30 p.m.
That will be the last game of 2019, as the Lions will not be action again until the new year. Saint Leo University will take a road trip to start 2020 off as they travel to Winter Park, Florida to play Rollins College, January 2, 2020. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
Randall describes the win against the Spartans as a huge win, helping with the joy of the season.