Spartans Overcome Close Call in SSC Semifinal Match vs. Lions and Head to FinalsMarch 8, 2014
KISSIMMEE, Fla. - The University of Tampa (20-8) men’s basketball team hit the court Saturday evening for a 2014 Sunshine State Conference semifinal contest against Saint Leo (23-8). In a series of down-to-the-wire plays, the Spartans prevailed with a final showing of 60-59.
The Spartans struggled to get a consistent rhythm going offensively, mainly struggling on outside shooting. Tampa trailed for the majority of the half, but managed to stay within four points by running the ball, remaining defensively sound, and forcing key Lions’ turnovers.
Ryan Kidd led the Spartans at the half with eight points, while Vincent Cornu contributed six points as Tampa ended the half down 26-29.
Realizing that the ball wasn’t falling Tampa’s way from three-point range, the team began to attack the basket and use their advantage in the paint. The Spartans outscored the Lions 22-14 in the paint, which ultimately became one of the game’s deciding factors.
UT was up by eight points at the four minute mark after a sequence of runs. It looked as though the Spartans started to gain full control of the game, until a Saint Leo basket from downtown with less than two minutes remaining made the mark a one possession contest. Both teams headed to the free throw line down the stretch in a close battle, as Tampa had a three point lead with 13 seconds to go. The Spartans knew the game wasn’t over and guarded beyond the arch to prevent overtime. Saint Leo managed to get a shot off to beat the buzzer; however, it was only worth two points, giving the Spartans the one point victory.
Kidd finished the game with a career-high 17 points, as Jordan Davis notched 14.
The Spartans will now take on the number 16 team in the nation, and overall No.1 tourney seed Florida Southern in the SSC Championship game. The two teams split the regular season series 1-1.
Tampa last appeared in the SSC tournament final in 2008, oddly enough against Florida Southern. The Mocs defeated the Spartans 83-81 in overtime to snag the 2008 SSC Championship title. .
Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at the Silver Spurs Arena. Following the men’s match, the Tampa women’s basketball team will take on Nova Southeastern at 3:30 p.m., for the SSC Championship. For live 2014 SSC tournament updates, please visit www.sunshinestateconference.com.