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Sophomores Carry Eastern Florida Men Past Indian River in Conference Opener

Jan. 8, 2014 - Eastern Florida's men's basketball team cruised to a 16-point first-half lead in its Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference opener on Wednesday night but couldn't quite put Indian River State College away.

That is until Eastern Florida's sophomores took control.

Indian River battled back from a 44-33 halftime deficit to take its only lead of the game, 52-51 with 11 minutes and 41 seconds to play. But then Eastern Florida sophomores Torrance Rowe, Jure Gunjina, Ben Patrick and Mike Kirkland accounted for the Titans final 29 points en route to an 80-65 victory before the season's biggest crowd to date.

The victory, Eastern Florida's 25th straight in the Melbourne Campus gym, moved the Titans record to 14-4 overall and 1-0 in conference. Indian River fell to 12-4 and 0-1.

Rowe finished with a team-high 18 points, 12 in the second half and 10 in the final 10 minutes. Kirkland, who overpowered Indian River inside all night finished with 17, Patrick with seven and Gunjina with six.

"That's what coach (Jeremy Shulman) has got us out here to do," said Rowe. "We've got a little experience. We know to keep fighting, keep playing hard.

"Hats off to Indian River, they played a real good game. They fought. We just had to fight harder and pull out the win."

Kirkland had similar sentiments.

"It's got to do with leadership and experience, being here before," Kirkland said. "First game of the conference so we realized what time it was. We realized we had to play harder and get the lead back. We knew they were going to make a run. They've got good shooters. We just had to play through the run and play tough."

Patrick also tied the result to the sophomores' ability to stand strong.

"We've been there before, I think we had confidence," he said. "We didn't get flustered. We worked really well together as a team and pulled it out.

"All season we've been up and down. We need to start having some stability and really building our chemistry to make it out of conference. It was a solid win. Now is where we can't go down next game. We've got to keep going up and I think tonight we helped get on that path."

For his part Shulman credited his team executing its system.

"There's no coincidence when it's 52-51 and sophomores took us home from that point," he said. "The sophomores in a tough conference game, a physical game where the other team made a run, they've been here before. They absolutely executed. It's all in the details. It's in the nuances of the game in how you play team basketball and those sophomores did a phenomenal job."

Freshman Bradley Christian led Indian River with 18 points.

Eastern Florida next hosts Daytona State College in a non-conference re-match at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Melbourne Campus gym. Admission is free. The Falcons defeated Eastern Florida 65-57 on Nov. 6 in Daytona Beach.

Eastern Florida returns to conference competition at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth and then hosts conference foe Miami Dade College at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18.