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Eastern Florida Men Pull Out 70-65 Victory Over Indian River State

Feb. 8, 2014 - For the second straight game Eastern Florida's men's basketball team survived a second-half scoring drought to score a key Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference victory on Saturday, defeating Indian River State College 70-65.

The victory at the Melbourne Campus gym moved Eastern Florida to 7-2 in the conference and 21-6 overall. Indian River fell to 1-8 and 14-11 but not without giving the Titans fits.

Eastern Florida ran out to a 15-point second half advantage, leading 55-40 with 12 minutes and 58 seconds to play. But the Titans then made only three shots from the floor for the remainder of the game as Indian River went on a 22-8 run to pull within 63-62 with 2:21 to go.

The game then hung in the balance.

Indian River's leading scorer freshman Desmond Mitchell, who finished with 15 points, rimmed out a long three-pointer at the shot clock buzzer following a Pioneer timeout with 1:30 to play and the score 63-62. Titans sophomore Mike Kirkland grabbed the first of three crucial rebounds and freshman Jermohn Queen, who had the game of his career with 29 points, was fouled and sank both ends of a 1-and-1 for a 65-62 Titans lead with 1:12 to play.

Kirkland then grabbed another rebound off an Indian River miss but Queen missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Indian River had the ball with 27.5 seconds to go.

The Pioneers misfired again, this time Eastern Florida sophomore Ben Patrick grabbed the rebound and Queen was subsequently fouled with 21 seconds to go. He sank both free throws for a 67-62 lead.

Mitchell sank a three-pointer with 14.5 seconds to play to move Indian River to within 67-65 but he picked up his fifth and final foul on the inbounds. Patrick sank both ends of his 1-and-1 for a 69-65 lead assuring Eastern Florida of its 30th consecutive home court victory and moving it one step closer to defending its conference title.

Eastern Florida led 36-35 at the half thanks in large part to Queen who scored 14 straight points and finished with 19 – 15 on three-pointers - for the first 20 minutes.

"I knew I wasn't starting, I knew I had to bring the energy off the bench," said the Stuart, FL native who was playing against what essentially is his hometown team.

"When the ball was in my hands I just shot like I do in practice. Coach gave me confidence and they were going in tonight."

In the second half Queen sank another three-pointer and had five critical free throws.

"Players play, tough guys win," Queen said of the pressure-packed free throws.

Kirkland faced down pressure as well with the three rebounds.

"I had to get them," he said. "Good teams find a way to win," he added about Eastern Florida surviving another tough game.

"It's defense, that's really what it really comes down to. Defense wins championships. That's what coach preaches. That's what our team runs off, defense."

And finding ways to win.

"I don't have an answer," Eastern Florida head coach Jeremy Shulman said of the scoring drought. "We got great looks and we had the right guys taking the right shots. Sometimes there's a lid on the basket.

"We're going to have to get it fixed."

The 70 points also marked the first time in four straight games that the Titans exceeded 68 points.

As for Queen's effort: "He was phenomenal," Shulman said. "I told him last night and I told him again this morning 'Jermohn I've got a gut feeling you are going to have a fantastic, unbelievable game and he did."

Now, with three conference games remaining Eastern Florida's road map to defending its conference title is clear: win.

Second-place Broward College is 6-3 but has lost twice to Eastern Florida. That gives the Titans the tiebreaker should the teams finish with the same conference record. Miami Dade, which has split two games with Eastern Florida, is 4-4. Palm Beach is 4-5, having lost twice to Eastern Florida.

Eastern Florida visits Palm Beach in Lake Worth at 7 p.m. Wednesday and hosts Miami Dade at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. It closes its regular season at Broward on Feb. 22.

Conference teams play each other three times to determine the top two teams that advance to the FCSAA/NJCAA Region 8 postseason tournament.

Sophomore Torrance Rowe was the only other Titan in double figures on Saturday, scoring 16 points including a crucial layup with 4:26 to play for a 63-56 lead. It was Eastern Florida's final basket from the floor.