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Contact: Mark DeCotis, Athletic Communications
Tough 10-Game Stretch Faces Eastern Florida Men's Basketball
Dec. 5, 2013 - As of Thursday the next 10 opponents for Eastern Florida State College's men's basketball team were sporting a combined record of 51-35, two were ranked in the top 20 nationally, two had just one loss, one was undefeated and one has the nation's third leading scorer.
Other than that the games represent just another brutal stretch in life as an NJCAA basketball program in Florida which saw the College of Central Florida defeat Northwest Florida State College for the 2013 national title and four Florida teams in the top 25 in the most recent poll.
Eastern Florida, which has shown grit and versatility in racing to a 7-1 start of its own, including six straight victories and a 21-game home court winning streak, tips off its tough stretch with a 7 p.m. Friday home game against Cape Fear (NC) Community College. The Sea Devils are 5-5.
Cape Fear meets Palm Beach State College at 1 p.m. preceding Eastern Florida's 3 p.m. Saturday rematch with Florida State College Jacksonville's Blue Wave, 5-4. Eastern Florida beat FSCJ 79-74 on Nov. 13 in Jacksonville. This weekend's games are in the Melbourne Campus gym and admission is free.
Tampa's TAAG Academy, which sports a 4-7 record but played Eastern Florida tough in an 80-53 defeat on Nov. 16 in Melbourne, comes calling at 7 p.m. Wednesday before things really get interesting for the Titans.
That's when Eastern Florida hits the road for the two-day Florida College Shootout at Santa Fe College in Gainesville where the Titans play nationally fifth-ranked Chipola (8-1) at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14 and 10-0 and nationally 20th-ranked Santa Fe at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Chipola beat Cape Fear 102-93 at home on Nov. 22 and hosts Santa Fe on Friday.
Everyone catches their breath over the Christmas break before things resume for Eastern Florida against two more tough opponents at the Dec. 30-31 Tallahassee New Year's Tourney. The Titans face Gadsden State of Alabama (4-3) and perennial power East Mississippi Community College (3-1) which received votes but did not crack the top 25 in the poll.
Gadsden sports forward Jay Watkins who is third nationally in scoring averaging 27 points per game.
Eastern Florida then travels to New Port Richey, FL for a Friday, Jan. 3 match-up with Georgia Highlands Community College (4-6) and a Saturday, Nov. 4 game with host Pasco-Hernando Community College (2-7) which fell 104-68 to the Titans on Nov. 12 in Melbourne.
What those nine games do is set the stage for the 2014 Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference season for Eastern Florida. That tips off on Wednesday, Jan. 8 in Melbourne against Indian River State College, which as of Thursday was 6-1.
Also as of Thursday the Southern Conference had the best overall record (38-6) of the state's four conferences. The Mid-Florida Conference, home to Santa Fe, was 33-8; the Panhandle Conference, home to Chipola and Northwest Florida, was 38-12 and the Suncoast Conference 3-28.
The Titans head into things with a balanced offense. Five players are averaging double figures in points led by freshman Demetrius McReynolds (13.7 per game for seven games), sophomore Shaheed Davis (12.5 for eight games), freshman T.J. Cromer (12.2 for eight games), sophomore Jure Gunjina (11.5 for eight games) and sophomore Mike Kirkland (10.4 for eight games). Sophomore Torrance Rowe is averaging 9.7 points per game in seven games.
Kirkland led Eastern Florida with 21 points in its grinding 87-83 victory at State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota on Tuesday and was the second-leading scorer with 18 in the Titans 92-66 home court victory over SCF on Nov. 25.
Kirkland is Eastern Florida's leading rebounder averaging 7.9 per game. Davis is averaging 6.6 rebounds and two blocks per game while Gunjina is averaging 6.2 rebounds per game. Sophomore Ben Patrick leads in assists at 4.8 per game.
"As a team, we have been working hard and improving each week," Eastern Florida head coach Jeremy Shulman said. "But now our schedule just gets tougher and tougher, so I'm hoping all of our countless hours of hard work will pay off.
"We attempt to schedule a very challenging non-conference slate of games - including games against nationally ranked opponents coming up this month - to help prepare us for a rigorous conference schedule. Our conference is so deep and talented this year. I'm excited to meet these great challenges we have coming up head on."