FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The celebrating started before tip-off and continued well after the final buzzer sounded, as No. 3 Nova Southeastern closed the book on the regular season with an emphatic 98-76 victory over Palm Beach Atlantic. The Sharks honored their four seniors – David Dennis, Dwayne Gibson, Pat Huffine and Lukas Landgren – during pregame, and were even presented with the program’s first-ever Sunshine State Conference regular season trophy. By night’s end, the focus turned to head coach Jim Crutchfield, who not only has his team on the verge of hosting an NCAA South Regional in a few weeks, but walked off the Rick Case Arena floor on Wednesday with career win No. 400 in hand.
INSIDE THE MATCHUP:
Score: Nova Southeastern 98, Palm Beach Atlantic 76
Records: Nova Southeastern (24-2, 18-2 SSC), Palm Beach Atlantic (12-15, 8-11 SSC)
Location: Rick Case Arena | Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
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HOW IT HAPPENED:
1ST HALF | A bit of a slow start defensively forced Crutchfield to turn to his bench early on the first half. Trailing 14-13 at the 13:28 mark, Landgren injected some much-needed life into the Sharks by draining a pair of three’s to give them an eight-point lead. The senior’s outside shooting appeared to be contagious, too, as Gibson soon followed with a three of his own before Eddie Puisis drilled back-to-back treys to stretch the cushion to 33-18 with 6:15 to play. Using the inside-out game, a skip pass from Mark Matthews to Nick Smith for three later pushed the lead to 40-20, capping an extended 27-6 run over an 8:49 span. In all, five different players combined for nine first-half three’s, as Nova Southeastern entered the locker room comfortably in front 51-31.
2ND HALF | The Sharks remained in complete control in the second half, shooting 67.9 percent from the floor to maintain at least a 16-point advantage throughout. Both Dennis and Matthews tallied 16 of the team’s first 18 points after the break, keeping Nova Southeastern on top 69-49 with 11:22 remaining. The lead was slightly trimmed to 16, but one of Puisis’ six treys in the contest, followed by a Dennis lay-up, quickly widened the margin back out to 77-56. The cushion was 16 once again with 4:39 left in the ball game, until Landgren put the finishing touches on a 10-0 run with a dagger from beyond the arc.
INSIDE THE STATS:
- Dennis finished his final regular season game inside the Rick Case Arena with a team-high 26 points to go along with six rebounds, six assists and three steals.
- Matthews shot an efficient 9-of-12 from the field in the win, notching 20 points and seven boards.
- On Senior Night, Landgren registered a career-high 11 points, connecting on 3-of-5 from deep.
- On the defensive end, Gibson swatted a game-high three shots, while recording a pair of steals.
- After hitting 8-of-11 three’s against Tampa last Saturday, Puisis followed up with a 6-for-9 performance on Wednesday.
The Sharks will be at home next Wednesday for the SSC Tournament quarterfinals. NSU will play either Palm Beach Atlantic or Tampa, depending on how both sides far this weekend. To stay up-to-date with the Sharks, follow them on Twitter @NSU_MBasketball.