OCALA-- With the game on the line, the College of Central Florida men's basketball team turned to its defense to get the job done against East Georgia State.
The Patriots held the Bobcats to just two field goals over the final 12 minutes and made 12 straight free throws over the final 2:21 to earn an 81-71 win on Saturday night in their regular season opener.
"We won, but our youth really showed tonight," said CF coach Tim Ryan, whose team returns just one player from last year's team. "We made a lot of mistakes and I honestly felt we were better than (East Georgia) and that the game was closer than it should have been.
"Still, we have a lot of potential to get better and we have to keep working hard every day."
For the game, CF made 29-of-36 free throws and also held East Georgia without a field goal for a span of 8:55 down the stretch, as it was able to gain some breathing room late.
A basket by Terrell Rogers with 9:24 left gave the Patriots the lead for good, but they still had work left to do.
CF used an 11-2 run following the go-ahead basket and took its first double-digit lead of the game with 3:25 remaining.
East Georgia, which returned one player from a 14-16 team a year ago, was unable to get closer than eight points the rest of the way.
In the win, CF used a balanced attack, as six players scored in double figures.
Jackson grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and made 8-of-8 free throws on the night, while Rogers passed out six assists and made 7-of-8 free throws during the last 3:24 of play.
Defensively, though, was where it was at for the Patriots, who scored 25 points off 24 turnovers by the Bobcats.
During the second half, CF limited East Georgia to 9-of-32 shooting (28.1 percent) and 21-of-62 for the game (33.9 percent).
"When you hold someone to 28 percent shooting in a half then you are doing the right things," Ryan said.
The Bobcats stayed in the contest by making 11-of-28 from 3-point range, led by Jacquez Motley, who made 6-of-11 from long range.
Motley, the lone returning player from a year ago, finished with a game-high 27 points, well above his season average of 11.8 from a year ago.
Tondric Johnson and De'Shon Nails scored 10 points each for East Georgia.
Meanwhile, CF made 10-of-25 from 3-point range, after it started 1-for-6.
"We're a pretty good shooting team, but we really have to get something going on the inside," said Ryan, whose team was outrebounded 42-36.
The Patriots return to action at home on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. against Red Devil Academy.