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State Tournament Awaits EFSC Men's Basketball; First Game Wednesday
March 3, 2014 - This has been a season for Eastern Florida's men's basketball that has transcended statistics.
Instead of just coming down to numbers on a sheet or in the national stats Eastern Florida's success has been measured by the tensile strength of the steel in its collective spines.
And nothing illustrates that better than three agonizing games the Titans had to win — and did — in the drive to their second straight Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference championship which begins Wednesday in Ocala.
• Feb. 5, Melbourne Campus gym vs. Broward College. Despite making only three baskets from the floor in the final 14 minutes and 36 seconds Eastern Florida clamped down defensively and sank nine free throws for a 67-56 victory. The victory gave the Titans the conference title tiebreaker over Broward.
• Feb. 8, Melbourne Campus gym vs. Indian River State College. For the second straight game Eastern Florida survived a second-half scoring drought. Eastern Florida ran out to a 15-point second half advantage, leading 55-40 with 12 minutes and 58 seconds to play but then made only three shots from the floor for the remainder of the game in winning 70-65.
• Feb. 12, Palm Beach State College, Lake Worth. Trailing 43-30 at halftime the Titans outscored the Panthers 49-32 in the final 20 minutes but not before withstanding a barrage of three-pointers in the final two minutes of a 79-75 victory.
Without those victories and seven others, including the Feb. 15 conference-clinching 76-64 home court triumph over Miami Dade College, Eastern Florida would not be preparing for its second consecutive trip to the NJCAA Region 8/FCSAA postseason tournament.
A send-off rally for the men's team will be held beginning at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday outside the Melbourne Campus gym, Building 6.
A contest is being held for the best designed motivational send-off poster. The best poster will win a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card. Anyone needing poster board can pick it up in Building 1, Room 126 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. today.
"What an exciting time of year," said Shulman who was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year for the second straight season and who will be seeking his 90th victory in his four seasons at Eastern Florida.
"It doesn't get any better than this. Our guys, our coaching staff, everyone around our program are beyond excited about state tournament, our March Madness beginning with our matchup against a big and talented Polk State squad.
"We will be focused and will bring everything we've got, but at the same time we are not losing sight of how enjoyable this time of year is, and how fortunate we are to have earned the opportunity to play at the state tournament for the chance to advance to the National Tournament in Hutchinson, KS."
Eastern Florida finished at 24-6 overall for the second straight season but more importantly 10-2 in the conference, losing only to Indian River and Miami Dade, both on the road. At home the Titans were 14-0, running their Melbourne Campus gym winning streak to 31 straight.
The Titans were 2-2 on neutral courts such as the one at the College of Central Florida in Ocala where the NJCAA/FCSAA tournament will be held beginning Wednesday.
The Titans open by playing FCSAA Suncoast Conference runner-up Polk State College at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The semifinals will be played on Friday and the final on Saturday. The tournament winner advances to the NJCAA Division I Men's National Basketball Championship in Hutchinson, KS from March 17-22.
But first things first and that's the state tournament.
Heading into Ocala sophomore Torrance Rowe, the 2013-2014 Southern Conference Player of the Year, leads Eastern Florida in scoring, averaging 14.2 points per game. Four other Titans are in double figures: All-Conference first-team selection, freshman Demetrius McReynolds, a reserve for most of the season, at 12.4; All-Conference second-team selection sophomore Jure Gunjina, 10.8; sophomore Shaheed Davis at 10.7; and All-Conference first-team pick sophomore Mike Kirkland at 10.
Kirkland, one of two Titans to play in all 30 games — freshman All-Conference second-team pick Jermohn Queen being the other — is the leading rebounder at 7.2 per game followed by Gunjina at 6.4. Queen leads in steals at 1.5 per game.
Sophomore All-Conference second-team pick Ben Patrick leads in assists at 5.5 per game. He is ranked 18th nationally in assist to turnover ratio at 3.4 and 20th in assists with 160. Patrick has the second-best assist to turnover ratio of players in the top 20 in assists.
For complete information on the state tournament, including ticket information, visit https://cfpatriots.prestosports.com/tournament
For live webcast coverage of all games visit http://www.ihigh.com/collegeofcentralfla/