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Eastern Florida Men Shake Off Gunjina Injury to Beat Palm Beach State 68-58

Jan. 27, 2014 - Watching their co-captain writhing in pain on the floor with a knee injury and being taken out of the gym on a stretcher could have taken the wind out of a team, especially one locked in a crucial conference game.

But Eastern Florida State's men's basketball team shook off the shock of sophomore forward Jure Gunjina's injury on Monday night and beat Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference foe Palm Beach State College 68-58 at the Melbourne Campus gym.

The victory improved Eastern Florida to 19-5 overall and 5-1 in the conference and extended its home winning streak to 28 games. Palm Beach fell to 14-9 and 2-4.

Gunjina went down under his own basket with 17 minutes and 23 seconds remaining in the second half and Eastern Florida leading 32-25. After a 40-minute delay the game was resumed and 24 seconds later Eastern Florida began a 12-4 run that gave it a 44-29 lead with 10:45 to play.

Freshman Demetrius McReynolds keyed the run with seven points while sophomore Mike Kirkland scored four of his team-high 16, two on a dunk off a steal.

Eastern Florida led by as many as 15 at two other points in the game and by 14 with 1:45 to go.

Palm Beach made one final run but could get no closer than nine points with a minute to go. The Panthers missed 10 free throws.

Eastern Florida used Gunjina's injury as a rallying point, ending each time out with the words "For Jure" and at the end of the game the players gathered at center court to chant his name.

"I thought our guys really competed down the stretch," said Eastern Florida head coach Jeremy Shulman. "We pray that Jure's OK."

Shulman lauded the efforts of Kirkland and freshman Landus Anderson whose dunk off a steal brought the crowd to its feet and gave Eastern Florida a 52-41 lead with 5:40 to play. McReynolds then sank a three-pointer and Anderson followed with one of his own and the Titans led 58-43 with 3:59 to go.

"Mike was absolutely great," Shulman said. "I've told him time and time again he's one of the keys to this team. He is really, really good. And he was really good tonight. He controlled the glass and he was an animal. He played his heart out tonight."

As for Anderson: "I love Landus," Shulman said. "He had a pulled groin against Indian River (on Saturday) and he was a game-time decision today. We didn't know if we were going to play him.

"He played so hard."

As did the Titans as a team when it counted.

"That was big," Shulman said. "They just battled their guts out, I'm just proud of this group. They just battled their hearts out for Jure."

Eastern Florida threw a defensive blanket over Palm Beach in the first half, leading 28-21 at the break. Kirkland had 12 points and four rebounds in the first half.

Eastern Florida beat Palm Beach 82-73 on Jan. 15 in Lake Worth.

The Titans now have four days until their next game, 2 p.m. Saturday at conference foe Miami Dade College. They then return home for a conference showdown with Broward College at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5.

Admission to Eastern Florida home games is free.