|Points||Philpott - 22||Jolly - 28|
|Rebounds||Merton - 9||Wimbush - 10|
|Assists||Mckim - 5||Wells - 5|
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (March 22, 2017) – Rollins trailed by just one at halftime, but ran out of gas against the nation’s top-ranked team, falling to Fairmont State 86-68 in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight on Wednesday.
The loss ends Rollins improbable run to its second-ever Elite Eight and closes the season with a record of 24-11.
Sam Philpott led the Tars with 22 points, hitting 8-of-10 from the free throw line and 7-of-13 from the floor. Jeff Merton recorded 12 points and nine rebounds while Eric Castaneda tallied 11 points and five rebounds. Senior Joey Galvis was saddled with foul trouble and ended with 10 points and five assists in his final game.
“These kids are unbelievable, what a joy to be around every day,” said Rollins head coach Tom Klusman. “They are just tremendous people, probably more so than great basketball players. I told them I love them, and they just played their guts out”
Jason Jolly poured in a game-high 28 points for Fairmont State (33-2), who will move on to play the winner of Bellarmine and Colorado Mines in the national semifinals. Vonte Montgomery added 21 points and seven rebounds while Thomas Wimbush tallied 15 points and 10 boards.
Rollins held the Fighting Falcons’ leading scorer and first team All-American to just four points on the day.
The Tars ran into trouble with FSU’s full-court press and hot outside shooting, falling behind 8-0 after the first three minutes. Rollins climbed back into the game and closed to within one, three times, the last a Merton tip-in that made the score 22-21 with 9:35 in the first.
Jolly then caught fire from outside, hitting three-straight three-pointers to push Fairmont State ahead by 12, 33-21. Galvis led the charge back for the Tars with a three-pointer and closed the half on a personal 5-0 run to bring Rollins to within 42-41 at the break.“Our kids have been resilient all year and getting down doesn’t bother us,” said Klusman. “We’ve been able to come back a number of times, we just felt like it would take us some possessions to get used to their press.”
Rollins was 13-of-21 from the floor and 4-of-5 from three-point range while FSU shot 15-of-38 and 7-of-21 from distance.
The Tars kept it close to start the second and trailed by just four with 14:29 to play. Fairmont then went on to outscore Rollins 23-7 over the next four minutes and its lead ballooned to 76-56 with 9:09 left. Rollins would get no closer than 18 the rest of the way as the Fighting Falcons’ depth proved to be the difference.
“We gave everything we had and it showed in the first half,” added Klusman. “Things have to go right. I’ve been doing this a long time and this is a special team.”
Rollins ended the game 24-50 from the field, but hit just 1-of-10 three-pointers in the second half. Fairmont State shot 31-of-77, including a 13-of-39 mark at the three-point line. The Tars were outrebounded 43-34 on the day including 24-12 on the offensive glass. Rollins also committed 18 turnovers while causing eight.
Rollins season ends with a Sunshine State Conference Tournament Championship and the NCAA Division II South Region Championship, the second in school history.