Panthers Utilize Late Run To Seal Victory Over Puerto Rico-Mayaguez 86-75
By Florida Tech // November 24, 2015
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech head coach Billy Mims knew what type of player he was getting when he signed junior college transfer Rafael Casanova…it was only a matter of time.
Off to a slow start to the season, Casanova broke out in a big way Monday night with 17 of his team-high 21 points coming in the second half as the Panthers closed the game on an 18-6 run to defeat upset-minded Puerto Rico-Mayaguez 86-75.
“We’ve been expecting him to have this type of game,” said Mims after his club improved to 4-1 on the year.
“He’s been frustrated. He’s been frustrated because he just felt like he wasn’t comfortable yet. We know he’s a good player. We felt like he needed a night where he got some good looks. This is why we brought him here.”
The shots were falling for Florida Tech down the stretch, but the contest certainly didn’t start that way. The Panthers struggled early, converting just 1-of-14 from beyond the arc in the first half, allowing the Tarzans to hang around.
A deep three-point bucket by Luis Montero put Mayaguez up four with 1:37 to play before halftime, equaling the largest lead by either team in the first 20 minutes.
A pair of late free throws from Jordan Majors cut into the deficit, but Florida Tech still entered the locker room trailing 38-36.
The first of Casanova’s five triples in the second half put the Panthers in front 46-45 with 16:14 remaining in regulation. Down a deuce minutes later, the 6-foot-5 guard drained another to help Florida Tech regain the lead 56-55.
The deep threat of Casanova would eventually help open up the paint for Corbin Jackson. Limited to only two points in the first half, Jackson flushed an alley-oop from Jermohn Queen for two of his 15 points in the win to extend the advantage to 61-57.
Still, the Tarzans battled back to jump on top 69-68 at the 5:16 mark.
However, the night belonged to Casanova. His jumper from long range on the ensuing possession gave the Panthers the 71-69 edge, as they’d eventually wear out Mayaguez despite the scrappy effort.
“When I first went to some fresh legs in the second half we started to open up the game,” said Mims.
“We got some easy looks up the floor, attacked the basket. We were active in the second half and were able to create opportunities with our defense.”
Jackson notched his fifth consecutive double-double in the effort, finishing with 15 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Alongside Jackson, Majors reached double-figures in scoring with 11 points on 3-of-5 from the field.
In all, the Florida Tech bench outscored Mayaguez’s reserves 25-13, led by Randy Echols’ and Queen’s eight points apiece.
FIT will return to action immediately after break for the tip-off of its annual Thanksgiving Tournament.
The Panthers will welcome Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras on Friday, before the winner of that game takes on the winner of North Greenville and Georgia Southwestern in the tourney finale on Saturday.
Live coverage of all four games will be available at FloridaTechSports.com/live.