Eastern Florida Men Stay Perfect In Conference, Defeat Palm Beach 90-86
By Mark DeCotis, Eastern Florida // January 24, 2016
Eastern Florida 18-3 (6-0)
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Eastern Florida’s men’s basketball team gutted out a grinding 90-86 victory over visiting Palm Beach State on Saturday to improve to 6-0 in the FCSAA Southern Conference.
The Titans never trailed but had to break away from four ties and stem repeated Palm Beach runs.
Eastern Florida is now 18-3 overall while Palm Beach dropped to 3-3 in the conference and 17-3 overall.
The Titans are the conference’s only unbeaten team but face a stretch of three conference road games in six days starting Monday at Broward College in Davie and continuing Wednesday against ASA Miami in Hialeah and Saturday at Indian River State in Fort Pierce.
“This was really big and we found a way,” said Eastern Florida head coach Jeremy Shulman.
“We’ve got a crazy week ahead of us. We’re going to have to rest, recover and continue to improve and be ready to go.
“It was a great win. We’ll let the guys enjoy it today and most of tomorrow and then we’ve got to focus on Broward. There’s still nine games left in conference.”
Eastern Florida handed Palm Beach its first conference loss 64-62 on freshman Kareem Brewton’s buzzer-beating layup on Jan. 6. While that game was a defensive struggle Saturday’s game was a high-scoring high-wire act that at times degenerated into a rugby scrum inside.
And the Titans prevailed despite missing 13 free throws.
Two big plays involving Titan sophomore Djordje Beronja were difference makers.
With Eastern Florida holding a 71-70 lead with just under eight minutes to play Beronja dove on the floor for a loose ball setting off a wild scramble capped by freshman Austin Awad sinking a three-pointer from the left corner for a 74-70 lead.
Then with three seconds remaining and the Titans leading 88-86 Beronja came out of a tangle of bodies under the basket with a key rebound. That led to a flagrant Palm Beach foul and a technical giving the Titans four free throws and possession of the ball with three ticks remaining on the clock.
Freshman C.J. Jackson sank one of two free throws and Beronja followed with one of two for the final margin.
Jackson finished with a team-high 21 point. Sophomore B.J. Gladden added 17, Beronja 15 and freshman Keoni Wallington 12, all coming in the first half.
“It’s next man up,” Shulman said.
“Keoni was special. Richard (Gaines) came in off the bench and was just outstanding. That’s what a team is. It was a total team effort.”
As for Beronja and point guard Jackson: “Djordje is the backbone of this team,” Shulman said. “I believe I have the best point guard in the country.”