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PREVIEW: Tars Clash with Rival Mocs in Lakeland Saturday

Sam Philpott
Sam Philpott


Rollins (10-7, 6-3 SSC) at Florida Southern (9-7, 3-5 SSC)

Saturday, January 13, 2018 – 7:30 p.m.

Lakeland, Florida – Jenkins Field House

VIDEO: SSC Digital Network–
AUDIO: Tars Sports Network–

Winners of three straight and riding the momentum of a thriller over Tampa that's making rounds on social media, Rollins next travels to Lakeland to battle arch rival Florida Southern on Saturday night. After upsetting Nova Southeastern a week ago, the Tars needed last-second heroics from senior Jeff Merton to get past Tampa by two on Wednesday. The win put Rollins into a tie with Eckerd for second place in the league standings. The Mocs have dropped their last two and are ninth at the midpoint of the SSC schedule. FSC is tough at home, going 7-2 in the Jenkins Field House while the Tars are 1-3 in true road games this season.

Rollins weathered through a tough December and have won two of three since the calendar flipped to 2018. The cooled the SSC's leading offense in Nova Southeastern last week to post an 81-71 win before hosting Tampa on Wednesday. Struggles at the free throw line led to the Tars squandering a late seven point lead and trailed by one with seven seconds to play. Jakobi Bonner drove and hit Merton for the game-winning three-pointer as the horn sounded. Sam Philpott had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead the way. Merton ended with 15 points and Connor Mckim totaled 13 points and six rebounds. Rollins dominated the glass, beating UT 36-27 in rebounding. Philpott is seventh in the SSC and tops the Tars with 20 points a game. The senior is shooting 61 percent from the field, the 33rd best mark in the country. Merton is scoring 14.4 a game while Deion Clark averages 12 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. Eric Castaneda (11.6 ppg) and McKim (11.0 ppg) are also top scorer for the Tars. Rollins scores an SSC eighth-best 81.5 a game and allows 79.9 a night. The Tars are -2.4 in rebounding margin, but have outrebounded the opponents in six of the last nine contests.

Florida Southern was picked ninth in the SSC preseason poll and holds that very spot with six weeks left in the regular season. The Mocs are coming off a road loss to 11th-ranked Barry, 102-80 on Wednesday night. Jonathan Lawton scored 19 to lead the way while Brett Hanson tallied 15 points and six rebounds. FSC shot just 39 percent while Barry knocked down 52 percent from the field. Lawton is the Moc's top scorer on the year, sitting sixth in the conference with 19.8 points a game. The junior transfer is scoring 22.8 a game in-conference after putting up 39 against Lynn last week. Hanson is scoring 16.2 points a game and leads FSC with 7.4 rebounds a game. Tyler Ross scores 10.9 a night and Jack Rausch averages 10.5 points and 7.9 rebounds an outing. Southern is sixth in the league in offense with 84.4 points a game and eighth in scoring defense, allowing 81.4 a night.


  • Last season, Rollins swept the season series against Florida Southern, winning by an average of 8.5 points per game. The Tars eclipsed the 100-point mark in the first game, as they won by a score of 102-91 in Winter Park on Nov. 21. Later in the season on Jan. 25, Rollins won 94-88 in Lakeland.
  • The Tars have beat the Mocs in each of the four straight matchups.
  • Florida Southern last beat Rollins during the 2014-15 season when the Mocs swept the season series. In February of that season, Florida Southern won in Winter Park by a score of 82-67 in the season finale, after winning the month before in Lakeland by a score of 74-70.
  • In his 38th year as the Tars head coach, Tom Klusman is 687-400 (.632), which makes him one of just 16 Division II coaches with 600 or more wins.
  • Jeff Merton ranks 16th in program history for career points scored with 1,493 points. He trails 15th ranked Curt Fiser (1,509 pts) by 16 points, 14th ranked Gary Parsons (1,518 pts) by 25 points and 13th ranked Larry Martinez (1,528 pts) by 35 points.
  • Jeff Merton is sixth all-time for three-pointers made with 206. He trails 5th ranked Jonny Reibel (211) by five.
  • Sam Philpott ranks 23rd in program history for career points scored with 1,320 points. He trails 22nd ranked Scott Martin (1,321 pts) by one point, 21st ranked Caleb Springer (1,337 pts) by 17 points and 20th ranked Kyle Rich (1,365 pts) by 45 points. This year in particular, Philpott has scored 340 points, which is the 13th most points in all of NCAA men's Division II.
  • Sam Philpott (58.2%) is ranked fourth all-time for FG percentage in Tars history.
  • This year, Sam Philpott has made 128 field goals, which is the eighth most among all Division II players.
  • The Tars average 18.8 assists per game, which is the 14th best mark in all of NCAA men's Division II. Also, Rollins has the fifth most assists in the country with 319 through 17 games.

Rollins has Wednesday off and will be back in action on Saturday, January 20 hosting Barry in Warden Arena. Game time is set for 4 p.m. Fans can follow the action live on the Tars Sports Network and new SSC Digital Network at