NSU Hoops Tips Off SSC Tournament Action Tuesday

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – With the regular season officially in the rearview mirror, the excitement is set to ramp up for both the NSU men’s and women’s basketball programs on Tuesday with the start of the Sunshine State Conference Tournament. Head coach LeAnn Freeland-Curry and the fifth-seeded women’s team will head to Saint Leo for its quarterfinal contest, while the second-seeded men will welcome Rollins to the Rick Case Arena. Both ball games will tip off at 7 p.m. ET.

The NSU men will hope to find their footing back on their home floor following an up-and-down, 2-3 finish to the regular season. The Sharks dropped their regular season finale this past Saturday at Embry-Riddle, yet return to the Rick Case Arena on Tuesday, a place head coach Jim Crutchfield and company have compiled a record of 14-2 in 2019-20. Still, NSU must be weary of its opponent, as the Tars accounted for one of those two home defeats, an 86-85 decision back on Dec. 14, 2019. The Sharks were without SSC Freshman of the Year candidate RJ Sunahara in the season’s first meeting. The forward’s presence was certainly felt the second time around, though, with Sunahara posting 25 points and eight rebounds in an 89-85 victory in early February.
Mikkel Kolstad and Mark Matthews have found success against Rollins’ well-known zone defense, combining for 45.5 points on 58.6 percent shooting in the two previous ball games.
Rollins’ Jakobi Bonner drained the go-ahead bucket with three seconds remaining to upset the Sharks in December, and has continued to lead the Tars’ offense throughout the season, averaging a team-high 18.3 points per game. Bonner has topped 20 points in each of the last four contests, and has scored in double-digits in all but one game during his senior campaign.
The women, meanwhile, enter tournament play on a high note after collecting season sweeps of both Barry and Embry-Riddle a week ago to lock up the No. 5 seed. The Sharks dominated ERAU in the paint, as senior forwards Maria Bardeeva and Jordan Tully combined for 36 points on 15-of-22 shooting in the eventual 67-54 victory. The duo will once again be counted on come Tuesday, especially to neutralize Saint Leo’s Alani Gallagher, who tallied 19 points and 14 boards – both game-highs – in the Lions’ 82-72 win over the Sharks on Feb. 1. The NSU defense held Gallagher scoreless in 21 minutes in the season’s first meeting, one in which the Sharks edged Saint Leo 70-67 thanks to a Sarah Kelly buzzer-beater.
Absent in the previous two matchups with the Lions, Freeland-Curry has earned solid minutes from junior Annie Santucci since expanding her role. During the past five games, Santucci has averaged 9.4 points on 47.4 percent from beyond the arc, and is someone that may prove to be a bit of an x-factor if the Sharks are to make a run this week.  

For the men, a win would send either No. 3 seed Palm Beach Atlantic or No. 6 seed Saint Leo to Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, with the women lined up to face either top-seeded Tampa on the road Thursday or No. 8 seed Embry-Riddle at home.

For complete coverage of Tuesday’s action, visit NSUSharks.com or follow both teams on Twitter @NSU_MBasketball and @NSU_Basketball.

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NSU Featured as Host of Saturday’s NCAA Division II Basketball Showcase Doubleheader

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As part of the 2019-20 NCAA Division II Basketball Showcase, Nova Southeastern is set to have its home doubleheader this Saturday against Florida Southern aired on ESPN3.

The women’s anticipated matchup will tip off at 2:05 p.m. followed by a Top-10 men’s showdown at approximately 4:05 p.m.

Women’s Live Link | Men’s Live Link

Earlier this season, NCAA Division II collectively announced 28 regular-season men’s and women’s basketball games to be highlighted throughout the academic year on either ESPN3 or NCAA social media as part of an effort to promote the division on several platforms.

“We are excited to have been selected as a host institution for the ESPN D2 Basketball Showcase,” said NSU Director of Athletics Michael Mominey. “Obviously, when we are able to highlight our student-athletes, our basketball programs and our athletic program on a national broadcast, it is a win for all of us. This is another example of how athletics serves as a gateway to the branding and exposure of our university. We relish these opportunities to serve as ambassadors for NSU.”

Choosing the doubleheader matchup between the Sharks and Moccasins proved to be a no-brainer considering the recent history between the two programs. On the women’s side, the Showcase offers a rematch of the 2019 NCAA South Region Championship, a contest in which NSU upset FSC 84-63 en route to its fourth Elite Eight under head coach LeAnn Freeland-Curry. The Mocs swept the Sunshine State Conference regular season and tournament titles a year ago, and despite notable turnover between the programs, both are once again among the upper echelon of the SSC.

Led by SSC leading scorer Jordan Tully (18.4 ppg), the Sharks enter Saturday fresh off a key 65-59 victory over Lynn. Tully registered a team-high 16 points in the effort, while Annie Santucci provided a spark off the bench with a season-high 14 points to help lift NSU back into a tie for fourth in the league standings.

FSC, meanwhile, sits just a half-game back of Eckerd in the loss column for second in the SSC race after defeating Rollins 74-59 at home Wednesday. The Mocs rely heavily on leading scorer Julia Jenike (15.7 ppg), who rattled off a career-high 32 points in FSC’s 76-69 overtime win against NSU back on Jan. 4.  

Much like the women, the men’s matchup also pins two of the South Region’s premiere programs. Just a year ago, FSC upended NSU in Fort Lauderdale to capture the 2019 SSC Tournament Championship before the Sharks recaptured the magic on their way to the program’s first-ever NCAA South Region crown.

In only his third season, NSU head coach Jim Crutchfield has already drastically shifted the program’s culture, turning a six-win team in 2016-17 into one that reached as high as No. 1 in the nation this winter, and comes in Saturday at No. 5. The Sharks are in the midst of a season-high, nine-game win streak after beating Lynn 104-71 earlier in the week, but a 10th in a row will be even more crucial with both NSU and FSC separated by only a half-game atop the SSC pecking order.

All-America candidate Mark Matthews has been nothing short of spectacular for the Sharks in 2019-20, averaging 22.0 points per game for the nation’s top offense (104.1 ppg) to go along with 7.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists. Nick Smith (14.5 ppg) and RJ Sunahara (13.3 ppg) have also provided a lift, as NSU currently boasts six players averaging double-figure scoring.

The sixth-ranked Mocs and fellow All-America candidate Brett Hanson (22.1 ppg) have been on a roll as well, and will head into Fort Lauderdale looking to build on their 10-game win streak following a come-from-behind effort versus Rollins their last time out. Hanson, who is only the third player in school history to record over 2,000 points, was recently joined by Jalyn Hinton on the initial Bevo Francis Award Top 100 Watch List.

Now in its second year, the division’s media agreement features two distribution models for basketball and football. For basketball, 18 games will stream exclusively on ESPN3, available on espn.com and the ESPN App.

ESPN3 is ESPN’s live multiscreen sports network, a destination that delivers thousands of exclusive sports events annually. It is accessible on espn.com and the ESPN App across computers, smartphones, tablets and connected streaming devices. The network is available at no additional cost to fans who receive a pay TV subscription from an affiliated provider. The network is also available at no cost to U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel via computers, smartphones and tablets connected to on-campus educational and on-base military broadband and Wi-Fi networks.

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