Florida Southern uses last-minute tip-in to defeat Alabama-Huntsville
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Top-seeded Florida Southern used a career-high 31 points from senior guard Seth Evans and a tip-in by sophomore guard Cameron Vines with 35 seconds left to post a 90-88 victory against No. 2-seed Alabama-Huntsville on Tuesday in the third round of the national tournament at Jenkins Field House.
In the final seconds of play, the Chargers were holding for a last shot, but the Mocs' defense forced a turnover on shot clock violation with less than three seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds play, UAH's Jaime Smith was called for a holding foul on junior guard Dominic Lane following a turnover by the Chargers on a shot clock violation. Lane hit two free throws to give the Mocs their two-point cushion and advance FSC to next week's quarterfinals at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.
"What an unbelievable game. It was one of the better college basketball games this season at any level," Mocs head coach Linc Darner said. "Both teams just continued to make big shot after big shot. It was a back-and-forth game.
"It was a great game between two really good teams."
The region title for the Mocs was the ninth in the program's history and first since 2000 when FSC also advanced to the quarterfinals in Louisville. UAH was the two-time defending South Regional champs. In addition, the Mocs become the first Sunshine State Conference school to make the quarterfinals since 2005 when Lynn claimed the South Region title and advanced to the national semifinals.
"This feels really good. I'm really proud of our team and my teammates for the way we fought back [Tuesday]," said sophomore guard Kevin Capers, who was one of two Mocs named to the South Regional All-Tournament Team.
With the win, FSC improved to 27-5 overall, while UAH ended its season with a 25-6 record.
UAH, which was playing in its third consecutive regional final, jumped out to a 23-18 lead midway through the first half and led by 11 points at 40-20 following two free throws by Connor Blasi with 5:53 left in the opening half.
It was at that point the Mocs began their comeback as they closed the half on a 15-2 run capped by a dunk from junior forward Lamar McKnight with 1:29 left to go into halftime with a 44-42 lead. The run was keyed by 3-pointers from Evans and Vines and capped by back-to-back dunks.
"I thought we wore them down a little bit in the first half and were able to get into them," said Darner, who is now 6-5 in NCAA tournament games as FSC's coach. "That run at the end of the half was big for us."
Evans, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the South Regional after averaging 23.7 points per game and shooting 53 percent from the field and 52 percent from long distance, scored 17 of his 31 points in the first half. While Evans scored 17 points in the first half, Wayne Dedrick (19) and Zane Campbell (10) combined for 29 of UAH's 42 points in the opening half.
"This the most exciting I've ever felt. I'm really happy and I can't wait to enjoy this moment with my teammates," Evans said.
In the Tuesday's win, Evans hit eight 3-pointers to establish a new single-season FSC record for made three-pointers. He has now hit 108 threes in 32 games this season, which bettered the old single-season mark of 106 set by Tim Gatz in 1994-95.
Along with Evans, Vines finished with 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench, while Lane and McKnight added 10 points in the win. Capers finished with nine points, five assists and three steals off the bench and senior forward John Gardner grabbed a career-high seven boards.
Both teams combined to hit 14 threes in the second half, finishing the game with a combined 24. The Mocs finished 14-for-37 (38 percent) from the 3-point line, while UAH was 10-for-26 (39 percent) from downtown.
Campbell, who earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team, finished Tuesday's game with 24 points and 12 rebounds in his final collegiate game.
Smith closed out his college career with 13 points and seven assists and Ronnie Mack added 10 points for the Chargers.
"UAH has two unbelieveable players and they made some plays [Tuesday]," the Mocs coach added. "Lenny does a great job with his team."
For the game, the Mocs shot 43 percent from the field and 75 percent at the foul line, while UAH shot 50 percent from the floor and 77 percent from the line. The Chargers held a 39-38 edge on the glass, but committed 12 turnovers that led to 21 FSC points. The Mocs had just seven turnovers, including just three in the second half.
"Florida Southern is a great team and I want to wish them the best of luck at the Elite Eight," UAH head coach Lenny Acuff said.