Undefeated Polk State improved to 6-0 tonight, outscoring Florida State College at Jacksonville 68-62 on the first day of the Josh Giles Memorial Classic in Winter Haven.
After ending the first half with a 33-29 lead, the Eagles never trailed in the second period.
The Blue Wave cut the deficit to 66-62 with 26 seconds left but could get no closer as the Eagles scored fewer than 74 points for the first time this season.
"It was special to get a win here in the Classic in honor of my father, but this is college basketball and you're not going to win games by 20 or 30 points every night," said Head Coach Brandon Giles.
"It's not always going to be the prettiest. You're not always going to execute the best or do everything that you consistently ask of your team. It's not always going to happen night in and night out, but the big part about tonight is we kept fighting and we pulled through.
"We had guys contribute from top to bottom and that's huge. JJ Rosario was huge coming off the bench defensively and he knocked down two big threes for us. VannAubrey Thomas, same thing. And Malcom Stevenson and TK Smith each made big-time plays."
The Eagles (No. 4 FCSAA) conclude the Josh Giles Memorial Classic tomorrow at 4 p.m. against Chipola College (5-0, No. 2 FCSAA, No. 5 NJCAA).
"I expect to see a lot of grit, a lot of grinding," said Giles.
"Chipola is a very talented team, one of the most talented teams in the country, so you can't take plays off or anything like that. They're well-coached and I expect a big-time game with a lot of talent on the floor.
"We have to continue to apply the pressure defensively. I'm extremely excited to have that matchup on our home floor and I look forward to that game."
Thomas scored 12 points and grabbed three rebounds.
Rosario and Stevenson each had eight points.