By Jeff Odom
The Saint Leo University (SLU) men’s basketball team saw its historic season come to an end in the second round of the NCAA Division II Tournament March 17.
Despite senior guard Marcus Ruh’s 27 points, the No. 4 seed Lions (22-9) couldn’t keep up with top-seed Florida Southern College, falling 84-65 at the George Jenkins Field House in Lakeland.
“I’m really proud of these guys, because it’s quite an honor to be in an NCAA Tournament and be invited to it,” said SLU second-year coach Lance Randall.
The Lions’ second straight trip to the big dance was a momentous one as they earned their first tournament win in program history by beating Rollins College 59-53 in first round.
SLU was dominant in the first half against the Tars (19-12), as Ruh (20 points) and fellow guard Jarrell Harris (14 points) took control offensively. Success from 3-point range and at the free throw line — 18-of-23 — also played favorably for the Lions.
SLU’s defense was on the mark as well, holding Rollins out of the paint.
The Tars were able to hang in the contest thanks to Kyle McClanahan (21 points) and trailed 29-21 at the break.
“I thought we should have had a little bigger lead than we had at halftime,” Randall said. “We outplayed them a little more.”
The Lions hit a quick 3-pointer to open the second, but soon found themselves stuck in neutral offensively and were held scoreless for more than five minutes.
To make matters worse, SLU lost Ruh, who went to the bench with cramps in his right leg.
With momentum evaporating, the Lions could only watch as the Tars cut their lead to four with time winding down.
That’s when Ruh returned to help stave off the comeback.
Ruh, running with a limp, managed to hit back-to-back baskets with three minutes left to help put a bow on the victory.
—Follow Jeff Odom on Twitter: @JOdomLaker
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