Florida Tech Falls To Leicester In England Off Buzzer Beater 82-80
By Florida Tech // August 16, 2015
LOUGHBOROUGH, ENGLAND – The script was all set for Florida Tech head coach Billy Mims Saturday evening.
The former heralded leader of the Leicester Riders was supposed to walk into his old arena with the Panthers and spring the upset against the 2014 BBL Cup winners.
If only Leicester’s Anthony Rowe had cooperated. On the receiving end of an assist from point guard Conner Washington, Rowe swished a jumper from the corner as time expired to help the Riders evade Florida Tech by a narrow 82-80 margin.
Trailing 76-69 with 4:23 to play, and Leicester on an 11-0 run, both Akeem Johnson and Jordan Majors propelled a late-game surge to keep the Panthers within striking distance.
Down just a pair with under one minute remaining, Johnson finished a tough lay-in with the foul to give Florida Tech an opportunity to regain the lead in the closing moments. However, the left-hander couldn’t convert the free throw, leaving the door open for the Riders.
A gritty defensive stand forced Leicester to miss a contested shot on the other end, but a costly offensive rebound allowed for the eventual dramatic ending.
Despite the heartbreaker, Mims was satisfied with his club’s effort.
“I think it was an outstanding game for both teams,” he said. “We went toe to toe with one of the BBL’s (British Basketball League) top franchises over the last decade.”
“Leicester’s won the league a few times, won the Cup a few times and won the playoffs a few times. They’ve put a lot of silverware in their cupboard over the last several years. We showed a lot of character tonight. Most nights it felt like we’d initially left our game on the bus, but tonight we came to play from the beginning.”
“I really liked the way we battled throughout. When they had big runs and opened up the lead a little bit, I never felt out of the ball game. We always seemed to find a way to come back. We were probably one free throw and one rebound away from winning this game tonight,” added Mims.
“On the road against good teams, let alone a professional one, you can’t give them second chances to beat you in the last five seconds. We gave Leicester that chance and they took advantage of it.”
A back-and-forth affair, Florida Tech leaned on the play of Corbin Jackson to keep things close in the first half. His 16 points on 8-of-10 from the field, coupled with 11 rebounds, allowed the Panthers to maintain just a one point deficit heading into the break.
“Corbin just stood out,” said Mims. “He looked like a professional player. Many of the Riders’ fans wanted to know, ‘When is Corbin Jackson going to finish college? When will he be done?’ A lot of fans tonight were certainly impressed with Corbin to the point that they thought he’d no doubt be an outstanding player in the BBL or elsewhere around Europe.”
A Majors transition lay-up pushed the Panthers ahead 55-54 midway through the third quarter, but Leicester was quick to respond with three triples to cap an 11-3 spurt.
Florida Tech opened with the first nine points of the fourth quarter to grasp a four-point cushion, its largest of the game at 69-65, but saw it evaporate for good as a near five minute scoreless drought soon followed.
Majors paced the Panthers in scoring with a game-high 21 points, adding eight rebounds and five assists. Jackson, meanwhile, was held in check for most of the second half, but still managed an impressive 18 points and 16 boards.
Rounding out the double-figure numbers, Johnson chipped in with 13 points to go along with Rafael Casanova’s 10.
“I thought Jordan Majors had an outstanding game,” Mims said. “You look at his numbers, and they show he did a lot of things really well tonight. I thought Jordan showed a lot of toughness, a lot of maturity. He does a great job of playing through contact and finding ways to make good things happen. I was really impressed with him on both ends of the floor.”
FIT outscored Leicester in the paint 48-28, as its bench also outshined the Riders’ by a 24-9 margin.
“Our players represented themselves well,” said Mims as his team sets to return home Sunday.
“They represented Florida Tech well. I think they were great ambassadors during this tour, both on and off the court. I think our guys came over here and worked hard on the court to get better, to really come together. We developed some chemistry, some confidence, and belief in our team’s ability to win. I’m proud of our guys.
“I couldn’t be more pleased as a coach. We’re all tired, but I think it’s just been an incredible trip for our team and the future of our program. There are so many positives to take away. Brunel University, and Pete Deppisch in particular, were tremendous hosts. Again, for the players that were a part of this team – once in a lifetime experience.”