Doolittle Center – 1950 J Street, Las Vegas, NV 89106
After a week off for final exams, the Rollins men's basketball team makes its annual trek to the desert, this year hosting the Tars Las Vegas Classic at the Doolittle Center, December 18-19. The Tars will meet a pair of teams from the Lone Star Conference in Midwestern State and West Texas A&M. Rollins takes a three-game winning streak into the event and is coming off a convincing 86-58 win over Saint Leo last Saturday. At 5-3 against teams in the South Region, Rollins will look to pick up wins against quality out of region opponents, which could factor greatly in NCAA selections come March. Midwestern State has dropped its last five, including losses to Sunshine State Conference foes Saint Leo and Florida Southern. The Mustangs were picked fourth in the LSC Preseason poll and stand at 0-3 in conference play. West Texas A&M is ranked No. 12 in the NABC Coaches Poll and tied for 15th in the D2SIDA Media Poll. The Buffs took their first loss of the season last week, a 106-100 set back at 13th-ranked UT Permian Basin. They bounced back with a big win over Lubbock Christian before heading to Vegas. WTAMU was picked second in the Lone Star Conference preseason after finishing third in the league last year and advancing to the NCAA South Central Regional finals. Perennial national contender Southern Indiana will play a mirror schedule to the Tars, filling out the tournament participants. Full coverage of the Rollins Las Vegas Classic can be found on the Tars Sports Network at RollinsSports.com.
TRACKING THE TARS:
Rollins (8-3) has won three-straight and eight of its last nine heading into the trip to Vegas. Ranked in the Division II top-10 to start the season, the Tars lost the first two of the year before rolling off a five-game winning streak. After a setback to eighth-ranked Barry to start December, the Tars posted three wins the week before finals. Rollins made easy work of Saint Leo its last time out, beating the Lions 86-58. Sam Philpott led the way with 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting. Jeff Merton added 14 points while Eric Castaneda tallied 11 points and six rebounds. Parker Davis got the first start of his career, posting 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Philpott tops Rollins season box score and is 36th in the nation with 21.5 points a game. His 88 field goals sits ninth-best in the nation and tied for the most in the SSC. Jeff Merton is scoring 16 points a night and leads the team with 4.9 rebounds per game. Eric Castaneda scores 13.1 points a game while Connor Mckim is getting 12.3 points and 4.9 assists a game. The Tars are scoring 87.7 points a night and allowing 86.8 a game. Rollins has a minus-1.4 rebounding margin, but has won the battle on the boards by double-digits in each of its last three games.
TRACKING THE MUSTANGS:
Midwestern State has struggled to find its groove this season and enters the tournament at 2-8. They visited the Sunshine State earlier in the year and lost a pair of heartbreakers to Saint Leo (88-84) and Florida Southern (88-87) over Thanksgiving. The Mustangs last played on Dec. 7 at Angelo State, falling 94-82. Devante Pullum poured in 26 points and handed out six assists to lead the way. Wanaah Bail added 18 points and Brandon Neel scored 14. Neel averages 16.9 points and 6.2 rebounds a game to lead MSU. He eclipsed 20 points three-times this season, including a 30-point outburst against Western State. Logan Hicks is scoring 12.8 points a night, shooting 42 percent beyond the arc. Pullum averages 11.5 points and 5.0 assists a game. The Mustangs are putting up 82.7 points a game and allowing 88.2.
TRACKING THE BUFFS:
West Texas A&M (9-1) won its first eight games and rose to as high as eighth in the national rankings. They loss a shootout to 13th-ranked UT Permian Basin 106-100 before bouncing back with an 82-72 win over Lubbock Christian. David Chavlovich pumped in 28 points with six assists to pace the Buffs over Lubbock. Ryan Quaid added 19 points and eight rebounds while Jordan Evans, Jordan Collins and Gaige Prim each netted 10. Chavlovich just reached the 2,000 career-points plateu and is scoring 23.8 points a game this season. He ranks as one of the best free throw shooters in the nation, hitting 69-of-79 (87 percent) on the year, while also handing out 4.8 assist a game. Evans scores 17.3 a night and ranks fifth in the nation with 40 made three-pointers. Quaid averages 15.8 points and 10.6 rebounds a night and Prim scores 10.7 a game. The Buffs have the nation's ninth-highest scoring offense with 93.2 points a game while they allow 78 points on the other end of the floor.
- Since making it an annual trip to Las Vegas in 2000, Rollins is 17-15 in the desert playing at a variety of venues including the Doolittle Center, Arena at South Points, Orleans Arena, Desert Oasis High School and the UNLV McDermott Center.
- The Tars are 2-3 all-time at the Doolittle Center and 2-0 when hosting the Las Vegas Classic.
- Rollins has never met Midwestern State in men's basketball
- Rollins is 0-1 against West Texas A&M with the Buffs posting an 89-68 win at the Doolittle Center last season.
- Tom Klusman is 685-396 in his legendary career, ranking 16th in the nation among most wins for active coaches. He is now just three victories back of Richard Schmidt for the winningest coach in the Sunshine State Conference.
- Jeff Merton ranks 17th on the Tars all-time scoring list with 1435 points. He is 31 behind hall of famer Eric Faber on the chart. Merton has hit 199 three-pointers, sixth most in Rollins history and 12 behind Jonny Reibel for fifth.
- Sam Philpott now ranks 27th on the Tars scoring chart with 1216 career points. He is four behind Mike Veith and 22 points behind current assistant coach and fellow Indiana native Brad Ash.
- Rollins is tied with Eckerd for second in the Sunshine State Conference standings, one game back of Barry.
NEXT UP FOR ROLLINS:
Rollins is off for the holiday break, but gets right back to Sunshine State Conference play on Saturday, December 30 traveling to Eckerd. The Tritons and Tars will enter the game tied for second in the Sunshine State Conference standings. Rollins is at PBA on Wednesday, January 3 before hosting Nova Southeastern on Saturday, January 6. Fans can follow the Tars all season long on the Tars Sports Network at RollinsSports.co.