Florida Southern’s strong first half performance proved too much to overcome for West Alabama as the Moccasins defeated the Tigers 76-68.
The last time that Florida Southern beat West Alabama was on Nov. 15, 2014, four months before the Mocs hosted the national championship trophy. Since 2014, the Moccasins have fallen to West Alabama in three consecutive contests in the ‘15, ‘16, and ‘17 seasons.
The Mocs won the opening tip-off but quickly gave up two fouls in the first 31 seconds resulting in three points from West Alabama’s Josh Fleming.
After tying the score with a three-point shot from Jonathon Lawton, the Moccasins proceeded to tack up eight more unanswered points to lead 11-3 after five minutes. The momentum switch was enough to propel the Mocs to a 17 point lead (28-11) with eight minutes left in the first half.
The Mocs and Tigers traded shots over the next few minutes before Florida Southern ended the half with a 20 point lead (46-26).
Lawton and the team extended the lead to 26 points (59-33) over the first 8:20 of the second half, which would end up being enough to cushion the Tiger comeback.
Jack Rauch received a technical foul with 7:56 left in the game for “unsportsmanlike talking”. He was heard saying an expletive to a West Alabama defender regarding that players ability to defend. Rauch scored 15 points.
The 18 point comeback attempt over the last 11 minutes looked to be similar to the Moccasin comeback last March against Morehouse College in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Florida Southern was able to put a stop to the comeback with 33 seconds left by strong defense from Slinky Jones.
Jonathon Lawton finished off with 23 points and 8 rebounds while shooting 5-5 from behind the arc. He was named Player of the Game.
“I wasn’t out scoring for me,” Lawton said after the game.
He went on to say that he was very happy with how the team played in this opening matchup, giving Head Coach Mike Donnelly his first win against West Alabama.
Rauch said that the team worked well together to pick up this 1-0 start to the season.
“We have never been 1-0 with Coach, so it’s good to start there,” Rauch said.
Florida Southern will play again tonight, Nov. 10 against Delta State at 7:30 p.m. in Jenkins Field House.