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Eastern Florida Men Rally to Defeat 22nd-Ranked Daytona State, 78-70

Jan. 11, 2014 - Sophomore Jure Gunjina sank a three-pointer to ignite a decisive second-half run to propel Eastern Florida State's men's basketball team past nationally 22nd-ranked Daytona State College 78-70 at the Melbourne Campus gym.

Although it came in a non-conference match-up the victory was important in that it extended Eastern Florida's home-court winning streak to 26 games, avenged a 65-57 loss at Daytona State on Nov. 6, improved Eastern Florida's record to 15-4 and showed the Titans they are not only capable of playing against nationally ranked opposition but defeating it.

But, it didn't come easy. After ending a tightly played first half with a 35-33 lead Eastern Florida fell behind 46-38 with 14 minutes and 22 seconds to play and trailed 55-51 with 8:05 to go.

That's when Gunjina took over. Following a basket by freshman T.J. Cromer that brought Eastern Florida to within two at 55-53, Gunjina sank a three-pointer to give the Titans a 56-55 lead with 6:55 to go.

Gunjina then hit a second three for a 61-57 lead with 5:17 to play that fired up his teammates and the crowd. Freshman Demetrius McReynolds followed with a three for a 64-57 lead and classmate Jermohn Queen hit a three-pointer to make it 67-57 with 4:04 to play.

Gunjina next beat the Daytona defense with a nifty spin-move layup for a 69-60 advantage with 2:22 remaining and sank two free throws for a 74-67 lead with 47.7 seconds on the clock.

Sophomore Torrance Rowe led Eastern Florida with 18 points. Gunjina finished with 17 and Queen with 11.

"That's probably the hardest game we've had this season," Gunjina said. "We got the re-match, we got the win."

As for his clutch shots: "I just felt the ball. I just told coach in the timeout to give me the ball. I had faith in myself. Finally, finally. The last few games I was in a slump.

"Every game we play is important," Gunjina added. "It is non-conference but Daytona beat us the second game of the season and we wanted to come back and beat them. It doesn't matter if it's conference or non-conference. We still play them."

And that's what the Titans will need to do on Wednesday when they visit rival and Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference foe Palm Beach State in Lake Worth.

"It felt like one of those Palm Beach games from last year, didn't it," a hoarse but happy Eastern Florida head coach Jeremy Shulman said of Saturday's victory, referencing the 2012-2013 heart-stopping three-game series between Eastern Florida and Palm Beach, won by Eastern Florida as it captured the conference title.

"My hat goes off to Daytona. There's a reason they're 22nd in the country and they are underrated at 22nd in the country.

"Our guys responded. We played our hearts out. We absolutely competed. We had to go small. Sometimes you can't try to match size for size. You have to do something totally different, make them try to play your game and it worked for us.

"Jure stepped up huge. We went small and basically had a guard playing the 5 (center) spot for us."

Queen also impressed Shulman, especially when he called a timeout while falling out of bounds, saving a possession with 2:53 to play and Eastern Florida leading 67-58.

"That's why he plays," Shulman said. "He didn't play great but he still makes winning plays because he plays so hard and he dives and he's all over the floor. He just lays his heart and soul on that floor."

Queen credited his teammates.

"We went out and fought tonight and we all came together," he said. "Everyone contributed, T.J. off the bench, I contributed (freshman) Cam (Scott) contributed with a big shot. We all did.

"I try to hit shots now. Coach wants me to shoot more and have confidence in my shot. He had a lot of confidence in me."

Daytona fell to 16-3, seeing a 12-game winning streak come to an end.

Eastern Florida's next home game is 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18 against conference foe Miami Dade College. Admission is free.