The Missouri Southern basketball team survived a late run by the University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras and moved to 10-0, marking the best start in school history, with a 73-68 win tonight in the opening round game of the Puerto Rico/Lexmark Holiday Tournament.
Southern ( 10-0) led 12-9 at the 10 minute mark of the first half, but a 13-3 run pushed the Lions lead to 13 (25-12) with 8:23 left in the first half. UPR-Rio Piedras, however, used a 15-10 run of its own to end the half and the Lions led 35-27 at the break.
Vincent Ateba had nine points at the half, while Patrick Hester and Skyler Bowlin had eight and six points, respectively.
The Lions led by 15 (47-32) at the 15 minute mark of the second half, but a 9-2 run from UPR cut the lead to eight (49-41) with just under 13 minutes left. Ateba then went on a 4-0, dunk filled run of his own and moved the lead back to 12 (53-41). Another dunk from Vince gave the Lions a 13 point lead with nine minutes left and a fourth dunk from Ateba gave the Lions their biggest lead of the game at 18 (65-47).
From that point, though, UPR went on a 13-0 run over a 3:52 span and cut the lead to just five (65-60), before a jumper from DaRell Crittendon stopped the run and pushed the Lions lead back to seven. UPR would get as close as three (69-66) but solid free throw shooting for the Lions over the final stretch helped the Lions seal the win.
Southern shot 44 percent from the field in the game and 75 percent from the charity stripe. The Lions attempted just 12 free throws in the game, while UPR had 35 trips to the line, but could only convert on 14.
Ateba led the Lions with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Hester and Bowlin both finished with 11 each. The 11 points are a new career high for Hester. Keane Thomann tied his career high with eight points, while Price scored eight, as well.
The Lions will be back in action tomorrow evening taking on Concordia College (NY) at 5 pm.