TAMPA, Fla. (February 3, 2018) – Rollins erased a late double-digit deficit but ran out of time before completing the comeback as the Tars fell to Tampa 87-82 on Saturday.
The Tars drop to 14-9 overall and 10-5 in Sunshine State Conference play, now in a tie with Eckerd for first place in the league. Tampa improves to 8-13 overall and 4-11 in the SSC.
Jeff Merton scored 19 points and hauled in seven rebounds to lead the Tars effort. Connor Mckim returned to the lineup to score 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting while also handing out four assists. Jack Fleming netted 13 and Deion Clark recorded 12 points and nine rebounds.
Marcel Robinson led Tampa with 25 points and seven rebounds, shooting 10-of-17 from the field with three 3-pointers. Duke Shelton added 23 points and 12 rebounds while Anthony Gamble scored 19.
Rollins shot 49 percent (33-68) from the field and 7-of-10 at the free throw line. UT hit 30-of-56 (53 percent) and connected on 17-of-18 free throws. The Tars beat the Spartans on the glass 31-30 and committed nine turnovers to UT's 11.
Rollins came firing out of the gate and raced to a 16-6 lead after the first six minutes of play. Mckim scored six during the span with Merton netting five. Tampa slightly cut into the Tars lead, but another big run put the Tars 23-8 at the midway point of the first.
A three-point play by Shelton put UT on the comeback trail as they ground down the Tars lead and tied the score 33-33 with 1:53 left in the half. After trading buckets, UT ended the frame on a 5-0 run and took a 40-35 lead into the locker room.
In the second it was the Spartans who came out hot and quickly put the Tars down 49-38 after just three minutes of action. Rollins twice cut the UT advantage to five over the next five minutes, but an 8-0 run put the hosts up 64-51 with 8:58 to play.
Rollins started its big comeback with back-to-back Fleming 3-pointers and used timely buckets and big defensive stops to pull to within 76-75 on a Fleming jumper at the 1:49 mark. Shelton answered with a dunk but Clark scored for the Tars to again make it a one-point game, 78-77, with less than a minute to play. A Robinson 3-pointer was followed by steal and fast break dunk that put the Tars down six with 20 seconds left. Tampa was then able to close the game at the free throw line.
Rollins is back in action on Wednesday, February 7 hosting rival Florida Southern at 7:30 p.m. The Mocs are 8-7 in the league tied for fifth place. Fans who can't make it to the game can catch the action live on the Tars Sports Networ and SSC Digital Network at RollinsSports.com.