Tampa Set to Welcome Saint Leo for Historic Meeting

Published: Jan 4, 2012
UT head coach Tom Jessee will meet his wife Nikki Jessee in tonight's game.Head coach Tom Jessee will meet his wife Nikki Jessee in tonight's game.
The University of Tampa men's and women's basketball teams are set to host Sunshine State Conference opponent Saint Leo University in a contest that will mark the first-ever matchup between husband-and-wife head coaches.

Head coach Tom Jessee's Spartan women will welcome former UT assistant and current SLU head coach Nikki Jessee's squad for a 5:30 p.m., matchup at the Bob Martinez Athletics Center on Wednesday. The game will mark the first-ever meeting between two head coaches who are married to each other.

Tampa enters the contest riding a three-game winning streak as both teams are looking to win their first SSC game. UT enters with a 6-5 overall record and 0-2 league showing after losses to Rollins College and Lynn University by a combined three points. The Spartans are coming off victories over Ave Maria, Southeastern and Grand Valley State University.

The Spartans are led by senior Jaleesa Harmon, who is coming off a career-high 23 point effort in Friday's win over GVSU. Harmon averages 12.2 points to lead Tampa's offense. Indiana State University transfers Moriah Hodge and Illyssa Vivo are also scoring double figures, at 12.1 and 10.9 respectively as Hodge is the squad's leading rebounder with 6.5 per contest.

Nikki Jessee started her Saint Leo coaching career with a record 6-0 stretch to begin the 2011-12 season, but has since dropped five consecutive contests. The Lions are now 6-5 overall with an 0-1 SSC mark following a 56-54 setback versus Lynn University on Saturday. Chelsea Williams leads all Lions with 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

Tampa holds a 68-12 record in the all-time series, and are winners of seven straight games against the Lions. SLU will be looking for its first win in the Martinez Center since Feb. 19, 2003.

In the 7:30 p.m., men's game, the 4-7 Spartans will meet the 6-5 Lions as both teams are also looking to pick up their first SSC victory.

Head coach Richard Schmidt's Spartans are looking to continue its winning streak, which has produced two consecutive victories following its NCAA-mandated break. Tampa defeated Brock University (Canada) and Winston Salem State last week at the Martinez Center.

Senior Ashton Graham leads all Spartans with 11.9 points per game as junior Callum Townsend returned to action last week and scored 32 points in two games. Graham is also the team's leading rebounder, at 4.9 per game, while freshman point guard Jon Riles has a team-high 27 assists.

Saint Leo is looking to turn the lights out on a skid where it has lost three of its last four games, including a 74-57 loss to Lynn on Saturday. First-year head coach Lance Randall has two players averaging double figures, led by junior Trent Thomas at 14.2 points per game. Marcus Ruh is averaging 11.4 points for a team that is shooting 46.8 percent from the field as a group.

Tampa owns a 52-11 edge in the all-time series after sweeping the series last season. The Spartans have won four consecutive meetings against its opponent from St. Leo, Fla.

UT will offer live stats for all games through tampaspartans.com. Fans may then find the live stats under the Multimedia tab. Tampa will also offer a video webcast for both UT games, which may be accessed through tampaspartans.tv.

Both games will be played at the Bob Martinez Athletics Center on the campus of UT. Tickets may be purchased at the gate for $5 (adults) and $3 (students and senior citizens). UT students and faculty/staff are admitted free with a valid campus ID.

Visit tampaspartans.com for the latest news and info on University of Tampa Athletics.