KISSIMMEE, Fla. – For the Buccaneers, the third time wasn’t the charm. Barry University hung with No. 10 Florida Southern for a stretch during the first half before leaving Silver Spurs Arena with a 75-57 loss in the Sunshine State Conference Championships quarterfinals.
Buccaneers senior guard Justin McCoy scored 27 points, going 7-for-7 from the free throw line, and had two steals. His 27 points fell two shy of the career-high 29 he had earlier this season.
Florida Southern, a team the Bucs lost to three times this year, advances to Saturday’s semifinals . Barry held the Mocs (22-5) to 10 points under their season average of 85.3.
“No. 1, our guys played extremely hard,” said Gonzalez, who returned to Barry in an interim capacity for the first time in two years due to the absence of head coach Cesar Odio, who’s battling leukemia for the second time.
The Mocs opened a 51-39 lead in the second half on a bucket by Dominic Lane before McCoy responded at the other end with a bunny in the lane. Florida Southern extended its lead to 17 before Bucs senior forward Filip Toric buried a three from the top of the key to make it a 57-43 game.
McCoy hit a triple from the corner. Then he came away with a steal at the timeline, rushed to the goal and scored, drawing a foul. He hit the free throw to complete the three-point play, pulling Barry within 63-49. Aaron Martin, who scored six points in his final game as a Buccaneer, sank a free throw to make it a 13-point deficit with 4:17 left in the game.
Toric’s bending layup with 3:13 remaining kept the Bucs within 13, but the Moccasins outscored the Buccaneers, 8-3, down the stretch.
“What we wanted to do was take away their high-volume shots,” Gonzalez said. “Outside of Lane and (Seth) Evans, our objective was to keep those guys in front of us.”
Florida Southern was five of 19 from three-point range. Barry was four of 14.
Buccaneers sophomore forward Magne Fivelstad scored nine points on 3-for-5 shooting, and grabbed four rebounds. Toric had seven points, nine boards, three assists and two steals. Lane and Kevin Capers each had 16 points on a combined 13 of 24 shooting. The two also combined for 15 rebounds. Evans had 10 points and five assists on 2-for-9 shooting.
“They have a lot of good players, and if we make mistakes they always find a way to capitalize,” Fivelstad said. “Turnovers and rebounds, that’s where we lost the game.”
The Bucs were outrebounded, 41-29. Barry committed 16 turnovers, which Florida Southern converted into 16 points. The Mocs had nine turnovers, which resulted in 14 points for the Buccaneers.
The Bucs built a 9-2 lead four minutes into the game after Toric found McCoy down low for a lay-in. McCoy then scored off-glass on an interior feed from Damien Dwaine to give the Bucs their largest lead at nine 4:23 into the game.
Florida Southern stormed back to cut it to 13-12 on a transition layup by Lane, before McCoy’s steal and coast-to-coast layup halted a 10-1 Mocs run. After Dwaine, who finished with four points and four rebounds, scored on another dish from Toric to keep Barry ahead by three with 7:36 left in the opening half, FSC went on another run – this time a 10-2 spurt – to build a 26-21 lead. A pair of free throws by Dwaine pulled the Buccaneers within two at the 3:44 mark before the Mocs capped the first half with a 9-4 run to take a 35-28 lead at the break.
“They score in bunches,” Gonzalez said. “To beat a team like that, you have to execute to a ‘T.’ Once they got the lead, we could no longer control the tempo like we wanted. To win today, we needed to block out and rebound. We had some lapses defensively.”
Barry shot 40 percent in the first half. Florida Southern hit 40.6 percent of its first half field goals. The Bucs, who entered the game ranked 63rd in the nation in free throw shooting at 73 percent, were 11 of 13 from the line in the opening half. They finished 21 of 25 for 84 percent. The Mocs were 12 of 26 for 46.2 percent.
Six Buccaneers seniors played their final game in the Barry Red and Black.
“It was a transition year,” Gonzalez said. “They had to get to know me, and I had to get to know them. I appreciate everything they did."