Joplin, Mo. -- The Avila Eagles led for nearly 28 minutes through the first and second half, but the Missouri Southern basketball team took a lead at the seven-minute mark of the second half and never looked back as the Lions defeated Avila 78-75 today in game one of the Freeman Sports Medicine/Chris Tucker Memorial Classic.
Southern (2-0) scored the game's first points on a bucket from Marquis Addison just 19 seconds into the game, but Avila (2-2) went on a 23-6 run over the next nine minutes to take a 23-8 lead. The Avila lead would reach 18 (28-10) after a layup from Brandon Redmond with 8:23 left. The Lions chipped away and got to within eight after a pair of free-throws from Jordan Talbert with 2:22 left, but the halftime score would be 43-30, Avila.
The Lions started the second half on a 13-8 run to get within six at 51-45 at the 14 minute mark, but Avila again led by 13 (58-45) after a layup from Sedrick Johnson with 12:11 left in the game.
From then, Southern would use a 20-6 run to storm back and take a 65-64 lead after two free-throws from Talbert. The game would be tied at 69 after a three pointer from Avila's Lance Miller and again at 75 after a layup from Redmond with 42 seconds left.
The Lions would take over on their last possession and RJ Leverette made good on a wide open three, draining the triple for the game-winner with 29 seconds left to play. Avila would turn the ball over on its final possession.
Addison would lead all scorers with 22 points on 7-13 from the field, 2-3 from long range and 6-8 from the charity stripe. Talbert scored 17 and hit 11-13 free-throws to go with seven rebounds. Leverette had six points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Greg Renfroe and Stephen Atkinson scored ten and nine, respectively off the bench.
The Lions shot 52 percent in the second half after a 36 percent performance in the first half to finish the game shooting 44 percent from the field. They shot 43 percent from long range and 75 percent from the free-throw line. The Lions once again led in second chance points as the Lions had a 14-4 advantage on the offensive boards.
The Lions will be back in action tomorrow evening with a 7 pm non-conference match up with Lincoln in the finale of the Classic.