While many students were on vacation during spring break, the men’s basketball team was competing in this year’s Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Tournament. The Spartans have won five SSC Championships, but they haven’t hoisted the trophy since 2002.
Held in Kissimmee at the Silver Spurs Arena, the Spartans would be playing alongside some of the best Division II teams in the nation, including the No. 1 nationally ranked Florida Southern.
The Spartans were in discussions of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and a successful run in the SSC Tournament would all but guarantee a spot for the Spartans at the “Big Dance.”
Last year, the Spartans made a deep run before falling to Florida Southern in the SSC Championship game. This season, the Spartans entered the tourney as the No. 3 seed with a conference record of 10-6 (18-10 overall). Momentum was on the Spartans’ side after their last game was a win against Barry University, ranked as one of the top teams in the nation at the time.
However, the Spartans ran into a brick wall in their first game by losing 91-84 against Nova Southeastern University. Previously in the season, the Spartans were swept by Nova Southeastern and had unfortunately been drawn to play once more against their rivals.
“Nova Southeastern is a very good team and it is really tough trying to beat someone who seems to have our number,” said head coach Richard Schmidt. “The tournament and this conference are tough and the way teams match up makes a huge difference in who moves on.”
From the very start, Nova Southeastern imposed themselves on the game. The Spartans scored first, but that was their only lead of the game. The Spartans kept it close for the majority of the game, able to pull within a point of the Sharks multiple times in the second half, but they were never able to fully close the gap.
Captain and senior point guard Jordan Davis finished his final game in a Spartans uniform with a double-double, scoring 30 points and adding 11 rebounds. Davis played an incredible 40 minutes in the game and was only subbed out for short seconds throughout the contest. Davis finished the season as the fifth-best in the nation in assists per game (7.3) and was one assist shy of having a triple-double in his final collegiate game.
“I enjoyed my time here at the University of Tampa very much,” said Davis. “I have built many relationships on this campus that I will have for a very long time.”
Davis transferred to the University of Tampa last year and finished the season with an average of 15.6 points per contest and a free throw percentage of .875 from over 140 attempts. After the season, Davis was announced on the 2015 Daktronics All-Region second team and the Tampa native was also selected to be on the 2015 All-SSC first team.
“It is an honor to be selected and it is proof of the hard work I put in during the offseason.” said Davis.
Selected onto the 2015 All-SSC second team was senior forward Eugene McCrory. This was McCrory’s first and final year at the University of Tampa after transferring from the University of Central Florida. McCrory has been the Spartans’ leading scorer with an average of 17 points per game.
McCrory almost averaged a double-double a game with an average of 9.4 rebounds per game over the course of the season. He was also selected as the SSC Newcomer of the year for his work this season.
With a strong regular season finished by a stinging loss in the opening round of the SSC Tournament, the men’s basketball team will be looking to make a statement in the SSC next year, but will do so without their star seniors.
Marcus Mitchell can be reached at email@example.com