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Rollins had four chances to tie or take the lead in the final minutes, but couldn’t get the big shots to fall as the No. 4 Tars fell to Tampa 70-66 in the Sunshine State Conference opener for both schools Wednesday. The loss drops Rollins to 10-1 overall and 0-1 in conference play while the Spartans improve to 8-2, 1-0 SSC.
Senior guard Jonny Reibel led the Tars with 24 points, 18 of which came in the second half. He finished just one board shy of a triple double, dishing out 10 assists and pulling down nine rebounds in 40 minutes of action. Junior big man Craig Reichel added 16 points with Nick Wolf putting up nine points off the bench.
Tampa, who recorded their second upset over a ranked opponent in as many games, had all five starters score in double figures. Johnathan Ball led with way with 15 points, six rebounds and six assists while Chris Evans racked up 14 points. Rashad Callaway and Chris King each netted 13 with Jeremy Black adding 10 points and a game high 15 rebounds.
The Tars scored the first bucket, but struggled from the field in the first half, shooting just 28 percent. Back to back three pointers by King and another by Evans put the visitors up 14-6 through the first eight minutes before a Kevin Hogan three sparked a 10-5 spurt by Rollins, punctuated by another Hogan trey, to pull the Tars to within three 19-16. UT rolled off a 7-0 run to go up by 10 and would hold a 12 point lead late in the half before heading to the locker room with a 31-21 advantage.
Rollins found their stroke early in the second period and opened the frame on a 16-6 run over the first six minutes. Reichel scored 10 points during the streak, including the game tying trey to make is 37-37. Callaway scored a layup on Tampa’s next trip down the floor to put the Spartans up, but Greg Sweeney Jr. answered for the Tars to keep it knotted. Evans dropped a three for Tampa as the Spartans outscored the Tars 18-11 over the next five minutes to push the advantage to 60-50 with seven minutes left.
The Tars fought all the way back and used a 12-2 run to pull even at 64 with two minutes on the clock. Rollins went cold again and UT connected on four straight free throws to go up four with 41 ticks left. Reibel scored a driving layup to cut the lead in half before Ball hit a free throw to push it back to three. Rollins had one more shot at it in the final seconds, but a Reibel three pointer from the top of the key came up short and the Spartans held on for the victory.
The Tars ended the game shooting 45 percent from the floor, but just 24 percent from beyond the arch. UT won the battle on the boards 38-34.
Rollins will be back in action on Saturday, January 5 when they will travel to Saint Leo for a Sunshine State Conference match-up. Game time is slated for 4 p.m. and fans can listen live on the Tars Sports Network at RollinsSports.tv.