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Tampa exacts revenge on Eckerd

The Spartans, who lost twice to the Tritons in the regular season, advance to the region final 67-56.

By ROD GIPSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- It's safe to say the Tampa men's team has had its way with Eckerd during the their history.

In fact, the Spartans had beaten the Tritons in 38 of 48 meetings. But that dominance took a hit this season as Eckerd topped Tampa twice in the regular season.

Friday night, UT put things back in order, topping Eckerd 67-56 in the second round of the NCAA Division II South Region tournament.

The win puts the Spartans (23-6) into the title game against Henderson State, a 69-64 winner in overtime against top-seeded Florida Southern. UT will make its eighth appearance in a region title game but has yet to advance to the national quarterfinals.

The third-seeded Spartans controlled the game early, twice posting 10-point leads in the opening half against the Tritons (22-8). The lead grew in the second half as Tampa used baskets from Jon Brown, Sylvere Bryan and James Mereus to take a 19-point advantage. But that's when the Tritons managed a comeback.

Two free throws each from Cerwin Thompson and Sharrod McCree helped Eckerd get to 60-54. But a free throw from Elijah Piazza and his dunk with a minute left put Tampa in control.

Piazza, Gecarri Freeman and Mereus each scored 11 for the Spartans, who were led by Brown's 18 points. Clevon Dunbar led Eckerd with 19 and Dwayne Smith added 14.

"I'm disappointed in the way we shot the ball tonight," Eckerd coach Tom Ryan said. "But we showed class in battling back."

Henderson State (22-9), meanwhile, was up 32-15 at the half, but the Moccasins (23-7) put together a 19-7 run midway through the second to get close. Ian Foster's three-pointer and a three-point play from Derek Heard tied it at 50 and the game went to overtime.

But the magic wore off for Florida Southern as Brian Woodland and Corey Peters scored for the Reddies and held off the Mocs.

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