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College basketball

Eckerd completes season sweep of Tampa

By ROD GIPSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2003


LAKELAND -- After opening with a 17-7 run, Eckerd trounced Tampa 86-48 Saturday in the first round of the Sunshine State Conference men's tournament.

On its way to handing the Spartans their worst loss of the season, the Tritons had four players in double figures and 12 score. They led by more than 40 twice and made 28 free throws.

"We've been on the other side of this," said Eckerd coach Tom Ryan of sweeping Tampa in three games this season. "And we're up right now. We played hard, played well defensively and we're definitely happy to beat Tampa three times."

In today's semifinal, the third-seeded Tritons (22-5) will face No.2 seed Florida Southern, which beat Saint Leo 68-54. The game is at 5:30 p.m. at Florida Southern College. The final is 8 p.m. Monday.

After falling to Eckerd by 36 and 13 points, respectively, in two regular-season games, the Spartans (15-12) did little against the Tritons defense. Tampa scored 15 in the first half and did not go to the free-throw line until midway through the second. It had eight shots blocked and 18 turnovers.

"We thought we'd do better than this," Spartans coach Richard Schmidt said. 'Obviously we didn't play very well. But Eckerd really shot the ball well and did the things they needed to do."

When Sharrod McCree hit a 3-pointer with 17:30 left in the first, the Tritons took a 6-5 lead and control of the game. A 30-point halftime lead grew to 40 before Tampa got within 21. But Eckerd's reserves increased the lead again.

The Tritons' Kendrick Wilson had a game-high 18 points. Peter Atkintola added 14, McCree had 12 and Cerwin Thompson 11. Achille Ngounou led the Spartans with 13 points.

"We're really focused this season," McCree said. 'We know that every play counts and every game counts. Especially this time of year."

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