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PREVIEW: Tars Race to Daytona Beach to Face Eagles

Deion Clark
Deion Clark


Rollins (14-7, 10-3 SSC) at Embry-Riddle (9-11, 3-9 SSC)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 – 7:30 p.m.

Daytona Beach, Fla. – ICI Center

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

For the second-straight season, Rollins was mired in the middle of the conference standings coming out of the holiday break, but have since gone on a tear, winning six-straight and holding onto sole possession of the SSC lead. The Tars have kept fans on their toes the last two weeks; beating Tampa on a Jeff Merton buzzer beater, getting past Florida Southern in double overtime, upsetting No. 19 Barry, thumping Florida Tech and then using another Merton buzzer beater so sneak past Lynn on Saturday. Rollins has a half-game lead on Barry and is a full game clear of third-place Eckerd in the league grid. Embry-Riddle is 10th in the conference, but won three of its last five, including an upset of their own over nationally ranked Barry. The Tars are 3-3 on the road this season while ERAU stands at 9-5 in the ICI Center on the year.Tars head coach Tom Klusman is 691-400 all-time and with a Tampa loss at Saint Leo on Wednesday, he ties UT's Richard Schmidt for the most wins in SSC history.

With a flair for the dramatic, Rollins finds itself in the SSC driver's seat with four weeks left in the regular season. The Tars can put some distance on themselves and the field with a string of games against teams below .500 in the league. Rollins is coming off a thrilling 64-63 win over Lynn on Saturday to keep the winning streak intact. Jeff Merton once again provided the fireworks, draining a long three-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Tars to victory. The shot was nearly identical to the one he used to beat Tampa two weeks prior. The senior totaled 18 points and eight rebounds and was named the SSC Player of the Week for the first time in his career. Connor Mckim and Eric Castaneda both scored nine points to bolster the Tars effort. On the season, Sam Philpott is the Tars top scorer with 20 points a game. He leads the SSC and ranks 18th in the nation, shooting 61 percent from the field. Merton scores 15.2 a game and snags 4.4 rebounds a night. Castaneda is getting 11.5 points and a team-best 4.9 rebounds a game while Connor Mckim (11.2 ppg) and Deion Clark (11.0 ppg) are also top players for the Tars. Rollins is 10th in Division II in shooting, hitting 51. Percent from the field. The Tars are scoring 84.2 points and giving up 80.4 on the season. 

The SSC newcomer Eagles has had a tough-go at its first official run through the SSC schedule and are 10th in the league. After a big win over Palm Beach Atlantic a week ago, ERAU dropped a tough road game at Saint Leo on Saturday night, 75-60. Nashard Mackey led the way with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Rudy Bibb-Boyd scored 12. The Eagles shot just 31 percent in the game but did haul in 44 rebounds and commit just eight turnovers. Ognjen Miljkovic leads the team with 17.9 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. Bibb-Boyd is getting 17.4 a game while Mackey averages 15.8 points and 12 rebounds a game. He is second in the nation in rebounds per game and has 15 double-doubles, the second highest mark in the nation. The Eagles are scoring 83.6 a game and allowing 82.8 a night. 


  • Earlier this season, Rollins defeated Embry-Riddle by a score of 92-83 in Winter Park.
  • Last year, the Tars and Eagles split the season series, as neither team was able to protect home court. On Nov. 16, 2016, Rollins earned a 92-85 victory in Daytona Beach, while, on Feb. 1, 2017, Embry-Riddle came out victorious in Winter Park by a score of 97-78.
  • Since Embry-Riddle became joined the SSC for men's basketball beginning in the 2015-16 season, the Tars have won four of the five matchups against the Eagles.
  • Despite having lost their first game of the New Year, Rollins has certainly found their stride in January. Following the loss on Jan. 3, Rollins is on a season-high six game winning streak with an average margin of victory of 9.0 points per game during the hot streak. With two of those victories courtesy of a Jeff Merton buzzer beater and another decided in double overtime, the other three were decided by double digits.
  • In his 38th year as the Tars head coach, Tom Klusman is 691-400 (.633), which makes him one of just 16 Division II coaches with 600 or more wins.
  • Jeff Merton is ranked 12th in program history for career points scored with 1,564 points. He trails 11th ranked Tim Shea (1,572 pts) by eight points, 10th ranked Scott Kinney (1,579 pts) by 15 points and ninth ranked Dick Bishop (1,592 pts) by 28 points.
  • Jeff Merton is ranked fifth in program history for three-pointers made (218). He trails fourth ranked Scott Martin (236) by 18 long range makes.
  • Sam Philpott ranks 18th in program history for career points scored with 1,409 points. He trails 17th ranked Eric Faber (1,466 pts) by 57 points.
  • Sam Philpott is ranked fourth in program history for FG percentage (58.6%).
  • Philpott has made 166 field goals this season, which is the 13th most in the country.
  • The Tars average 18.0 assists per game, which is the 18th most in all of men's Division II. Also, Rollins has the 11th most assists in the country with 378 through 21 games.

The Tars are back on the road Saturday, February 3, visiting Tampa at 4 p.m. Rollins next home game is Wednesday, February 7 against rival and SSC leader, Florida Southern. All games can be found on the SSC Digital Network at and the Tars Sports Network at