WINTER PARK, Fla. (February 28, 2018) – A Jeff Merton steal with 10 seconds to play proved to be the pivotal play as Rollins picked up a 78-75 win over Nova Southeastern in the Sunshine State Conference Tournament Quarterfinals.
The fourth-seed Tars (16-13) advance to play top-seed Barry on Saturday, March 3 in Lakeland. Tipoff is set for Noon at Florida Southern's Jenkins Field House.
All five Rollins starters scored in double figures Wednesday. Merton led the way for Rollins with 18 points, four rebounds and four assists. Connor Mckim added 14 points and four assists with Eric Castaneda scoring 11 and Deion Clark 10.
The Tars shot 60 percent in the first half and ended the night 56 percent (28-50) from the field. NSU (17-10) went 27-of-55 (49 percent) from the floor and outrebounded Rollins 31-23.
Malik Hardy poured in 30 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Sharks. Gerard Tarin tallied 14 points and Nick Smith netted 10.
Rollins played hot at the start and had NSU doubled up 16-8 five minutes in. The Sharks came back with a 9-0 run and grabbed their first lead, only to have the Tars answer with another offensive spurt and lead 37-26 with 2:44 left in the half.
Rollins held a 39-31 lead at intermission.
NSU seized control early in the second and put the Tars down 62-54 with 9:02 to play. Rollins trailed 64-56 with 8:04 left and came charging back, taking a 69-68 lead with 4:18 to go. The teams then traded leads twice over the next three minutes.
Malik Hardy hit a deep three for the Sharks to tie the score at 73 with just 45 seconds left. Mckim put the Tars on top 26 seconds later with a driving layup, making the score 75-73. Merton stole it from Dennis on the ensuing possession and hit a free throw to put the Tars on top by one.
Hardy got a pair at the line to cut the Tars lead back to one with six seconds left. Mckim answered with two free throws for the Tars to again put the Tars in front by three. Dennis had a look at a deep three at the buzzer that went begging, sealing the Tars win.
Rollins and Barry is the first of the SSC Semifinals to be played at the Jenkins Field House in Lakeland. Eckerd and Florida Southern meet on the other side of the bracket as all four top-seeds advanced in the quarterfinals. The Tars and Bucs split games in the regular season, each winning on its own home floor. Fans can catch the action on the Tars Sports Network and SSC Digital Network at RollinsSports.com.