Titans Hold Off Palm Beach State, Improve To 19-1
By Mark DeCotis, Athletic Communications // January 15, 2015
Titans 15th straight victory
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – In as close, contentious and physical a game that has been seen around these parts in some time Eastern Florida’s men’s basketball team turned back Palm Beach State 78-74 on Wednesday in Melbourne.
The victory improved Eastern Florida to 2-0 in the Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference and to 19-1 overall.
It was the Titans 15th straight victory this season and their 42nd straight at home.
Palm Beach fell to 1-2 in conference and 16-5 overall in battling Eastern Florida down to the final buzzer.
Although the Titans, who came into the game ranked seventh nationally in the NJCAA Division I poll and second in Florida, never trailed, they never were able to put Palm Beach away.
“It’s one of the toughest, grittiest performances we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Eastern Florida head coach Jeremy Shulman who is in his fifth season.
“I knew just how good Palm Beach was. They lived up to expectations. I am so proud of my guys for responding.”
“We could never break it open but that game was a barnburner throughout and our guys had the mental toughness. They responded to challenge after challenge. It wasn’t our best effort. I’m very disappointed with our performance defensively and on the boards,” said Shulman.
“But if we could be as bad as we were defensively and on the boards and beat an outstanding team, we’re proud of our guys.”
Sophomores Kyle Meyer and Payton Hulsey credited Eastern Florida’s defense for making the difference over the final four minutes and Hulsey added one more thing.
“Coach works us hard,” Hulsey said. “We just keep battling. We don’t have any quit.”
The Titans built an 18-7 lead with 12 minutes and 37 seconds to play in the first half, led 32-25 with 3:23 to go and 34-27 with 2:29 remaining.
The lead at halftime was 36-31.
The second half was much closer until a Djordje Beronja basket gave Eastern Florida a 53-45 lead with 10:15 to play.
It was 57-50 Eastern Florida with 8:18 to go after a Demetrius McReynolds basket but once again Palm Beach refused to wilt and go to within 60-58 with 6:19 to play.
Kyle Meyer made it 62-58 with a resounding slam. Palm Beach then got to within 62-61 with 4:14 to play before Meyer sank a layup on a nice feed from Jermohn Queen and was fouled. Meyer hit the free throw for a 65-61 lead with 3:51 to play.
Palm Beach got to within 65-63 with 3:35 to play but didn’t score again until a three-pointer with 56.4 seconds remaining made the score 72-66.
That Eastern Florida led was due to clutch efforts from Daishon Smith whose three-pointer made it 68-63 and Hulsey who made it 70-63 off a steal.
Palm Beach fouled down the stretch and the Titans responded with clutch free throws from Queen and Smith, who accounted for seven points.
A Palm Beach three-pointer just shy of the final buzzer made it 78-74.
Meyer finished with 18 points, Beronja scored 17, McReynolds 14 and Smith 13.
Jarrel Marshal led Palm Beach with 26 points.
Next up for Eastern Florida is a 2 p.m. Saturday game at conference foe Miami Dade College in Kendall.
Eastern Florida returns home on Jan. 21 to host conference foe Indian River State. Tipoff is 7 p.m. and admission is free.
The game will be telecast live on WEFS-TV and streamed live on the Internet.