By Jonathan Pressley
On sophomore day, the No. 1 ranked Florida Southwestern State Buccaneers finished their season perfect in conference play and 28-1 overall, as they the defeated Polk State 78-65 at the Suncoast Credit Union Arena on February 23.
This class is special. This is the first time in FSW history that the men’s basketball team was ranked number one in the nation. Next up, FSW heads to Ocala, FL on March 7 to play in the state tournament.
The state winner advances automatically to the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas. Last year FSW lost in the state tournament, and received a large bid to make the nationals, but ultimately lost in the quarterfinals to Vincennes University.
In the Bucs final regular season game, they opened with the Daniels twins scoring the first two buckets. Sophomore Maddox Daniels opened with a 3-pointer from the wing, while Mason Daniels found his way into the lane, opening up a quick 5-0 lead.
Polk State Freshman Tekorian Smith converted on a 3-pointer on the other end en route to a 29-point performance.
After ten minutes of play, both offenses struggled to find their rhythm but the Bucs held a slight lead at 13-10.
When freshman Jalen Finch checked into the game, he gave the Bucs the spark they needed by connecting on back-to-back threes to extend the lead to 19-10.
The Bucs started to find their shots as freshman Terence Lewis II scored a couple buckets in the paint. Sophomore and LSU-commit Charles Manning Jr hyped up the crowd with a thunderous dunk to bring the lead to 13 with a little over four minutes to go in the half.
Tekorian Smith kept Polk State in the game by scoring 20 of his 29 in the first half. By the end of the half, the Bucs were up 40-31.
FSW came out of the half looking for a spark early, and Finch delivered with an alley-oop pass to sophomore center DeShawn Thomas, who caught it for the slam.
Polk State, however, was not going down. Polk sophomore Alsean Evans got into the action, scoring 12 of his 19 points in the second half. The combination of Evans and Smith brought Polk within striking distance, cutting FSW’s lead to as little as two with 15 minutes left to play.
However, our Bucs have been undefeated at home for the past two years, and they were determined to keep it that way. Again, the Daniels twins hit back-to-back threes to extend their lead to eight, 62-54.
Thomas controlled the glass, grabbing two offensive rebounds and kicking one out to Maddox Daniels for another 3-pointer, pushing the lead to 68-61. Thomas wasn’t done, as grabbed a crucial defensive rebound and pushed it to Manning Jr in transition for an and-1 reverse layup. He knocked down the free throw, extending the lead to 71-61.
Polk State still wouldn’t quit as Evans and Smith brought Polk to within six with less than a minute left in the game.
But it was too late. FSW used the free-throw line to seal the win as Polk State tried harvesting their chances by late-game fouling.
FSW converted 10-14 from the free-throw line in the second half, helping the Bucs finish a perfect 35-0 on their home court and 24-0 in conference matchups over the past two seasons.