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PREVIEW: Rollins Travels to NSU for Pivotal SSC Battle

Jakobi Bonner
Jakobi Bonner


Rollins (14-11, 10-7 SSC) at Nova Southeastern (16-6, 10-6 SSC)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 – 7:30 p.m.

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. – Rick Case Arena

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

Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, an incredible six teams still have a legitimate shot at the Sunshine State Conference title, including both Rollins and Nova Southeastern. Barry holds a one-game lead over the field with the Tars and Sharks joining Florida Southern and Lynn as teams with 10 SSC victories. The Tars are mired in a four-game losing streak while NSU is trending the other way, with a four-game winning streak heading into Wednesday's game. The result will be a large factor in not only the SSC title hunt, but also seeding and a first-round home game in the upcoming conference tournament. Tars head coach Tom Klusman continues to chase 700 career victories, currently sitting at 691-404.

Three weeks removed from the top-spot in the Sunshine State Conference, Rollins is now part of the logjam in the middle of the standings, battling for a top seed in the conference tourney. After an emotional last-second loss to Florida Southern on Wednesday, the Tars came out flat against Palm Beach Atlantic and were never able to recover, falling to the 'Fish 89-83. Jeff Merton scored 14 to lead the Tars while Connor Mckim and Jack Fleming both netted 13.  Jakobi Bonner added 12 points, five rebounds and five steals. Sam Philpott is the Tars leading scorer with 18.7 points a game, but is currently sidelined with an injury. Merton is putting up 15.6 points a game to go along with 4.5 rebounds a night. He is shooting 46 percent from the field and had hit 55 three-pointers. Eric Castaneda is putting up 12 points and 4.6 rebounds a night while Mckim averages 11.4 points and Deion Clark 11.3 a night. The Tars are fourth in the conference with 84.4 points a game and allow 82.1 a night. The Tars are 3-7 away from home this season. 

After a hot start to the year and lull midseason, the Sharks head into the game with the SSC's longest current win streak. They are coming off a 73-68 win at then SSC-leader Eckerd on Saturday. Dwayne Gibson scored 26 points behind a 6-of-10 night beyond the arc and was named SSC Player of the Week. Nick Smith and Malik Hardy chipped in 10 points each. David Dennis puts up 20.4 points a game to lead the Sharks and rank fifth in the SSC. He is shooting 49 percent from the field and also averages 6.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists a night. Hardy is getting 15.5 points a game and Smith puts up 12.9 a night. NSU leads the SSC in scoring with 91.7 points a game while ranking last in defense, allowing 86.5 a night. The Sharks are 11-3 inside Rick Case Arena this season.


• Earlier this season on Jan. 6, Rollins ended their four-game losing streak by defeating Palm Beach Atlantic, 81-71. With 21 points, Sam Philpott led the Tars in scoring by shooting 7-of-10 from the field and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe in 35 minutes of play. Eric Castaneda also finished a mere point from a double-double, as he grabbed 11 rebounds.

• Last season, Rollins and Nova Southeastern split their season series each team protecting their home court. On Jan. 11, 2017, The Sharks won the first meeting by a score of 63-56 before the Tars won the matchup on Feb. 8 by a score of 86-67.

• The Tars last defeated the Sharks in Fort Lauderdale during the 2015-16 season. On Dec. 4, 2015, then-sophomore Jeff Merton had 19 points in 32 minutes as Rollins beat NSU, 75-74.

• It's been a tale of two teams thus far this year. At Warden Arena, Rollins has been fantastic, earning a record of 11-4 (.733). However, away from the confines of Winter Park, Rollins is 3-7 (.300), including 3-4 (.429) in true away games.

• In his 38th year as the Tars head coach, Tom Klusman is 691-404 (.631), which makes him one of just 16 Division II coaches with 600 or more wins.

Jeff Merton is ranked eighth in program history for career points scored with 1,635 points. He trails seventh ranked Jonny Reibel (1,679 pts) by 44 points.

• Merton is ranked fifth in program history for three-pointers made (231). He trails fourth ranked Scott Martin (236) by five long range makes.

Sam Philpott ranks 18th in program history for career points scored with 1,419 points. He trails 17th ranked Eric Faber (1,466 pts) by 37 points.

• Philpott is ranked fourth in program history for FG percentage (58.0%).

• Rollins has the 11th most assists in the country with 448. Through 25 games, that number equates to 17.9 assists per game, which is the 17th most in all of men's Division II.

• Rollins has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5, which is the 18th best ratio in the country.

• Between wins and losses, a major variance can be found under rebounds per game, especially defensive boards. In wins, Rollins grabs 35.7 rebounds per game, including 26.6 on the defensive side, while in losses, the Tars grab a mere 27.1 boards per game, including 18.2 on the defensive side.

The Tars return home for the final time this season on Saturday, February 17, hosting Eckerd at 4 p.m. The regular season closes on Saturday, February 24 at Saint Leo for a 5:30 p.m. contest. All games can be found on the SSC Digital Network at and the Tars Sports Network at