Florida Tech Panthers Win Streak Extends To 5-Games After 76-73 Victory Over Flagler College

By  //  November 28, 2018

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Panthers overcame double-digit second-half deficit

Guided by double-doubles from Derek Murphy and Antonis Pefanis, Florida Tech overcame a double-digit second-half deficit to defeat Flagler College, 76-73, Tuesday evening at the Clemente Center. (FIT Image)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Guided by double-doubles from Derek Murphy and Antonis Pefanis, Florida Tech overcame a double-digit second-half deficit to defeat Flagler College, 76-73, Tuesday evening at the Clemente Center.

The Crimson & Gray have now won five games in a row for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign.

This was the first matchup between Flagler and Florida Tech since the 2015-16 season. In that meeting, the Panthers defeated the Saints, 96-90, in Melbourne.

Derek Murphy and Antonis Pefanis, who were named the SSC’s Defensive and Offensive Players of the Week on Monday, both backed up their awards with terrific performances against the Saints.

Murphy led Florida Tech in scoring in the game with 23 points on 7-of-18 shooting, 11 rebounds, four steals, and two assists. It is Murphy’s third double-double in the first six games of the season.

Pefanis added 17 points on 6-of-11 from the field and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. The junior also hauled in 10 rebounds to go along with two assists and two steals.

Despite foul trouble, RJ Coil continued to produce for the Panthers and nearly had a double-double with 15 points, nine boards, and three blocks. Cory Kaplan put in some great minutes off the bench and ended with a career-high 10 points and three rebounds.

A strong second-half shooting performance allowed the Panthers to finish with a shooting percentage of 44.6 percent (25-of-56) from the field, including 27.3 percent (6-fo-22) from long range

Flagler made 45.8 percent (27-of-59) of its attempts in the game, including 24.1 percent (7-of-29) from beyond the arc.

The Saints ended with a narrow edge in the rebounding department, 37-36, while both teams had success in the paints, scoring 36 points each. However, Tech earned a slight advantage in points off turnovers, 19-18, and bench points, 18-17.

Much of the play in the first half was even between the two teams. The Saints grabbed a 9-5 lead on a three-pointer by Vaughn McCall with 15:43 to go in the first half.

Florida Tech answered with a 7-0 run that helped the Panthers take a 12-9 edge with 12:57 left in the half. However, the FC came back to tie the game at 16-16 with just over six minutes remaining.

The Saints controlled the play over the final six minutes of the first half. Flagler outscored Tech 20-10 over the span and sent the Panthers to the locker room at halftime trailing 36-26.

Head coach Billy Mims, who picked up his 200th win at Florida Tech last week, had three keys to success for his team in the second half.

Head Coach Billy Mims picked up his 200th win at Florida Tech last week. (FIT Image)

“I told our team at halftime that the keys for us to comeback are our energy, effort and execution,” stated Mims. “Our guys played harder and faster in the second half. I thought our effort in the second half was also great. Every 50-50 ball we had in the second half, we had a chance at getting. Our execution was also way up as well in the second half. In the first half, we shot 36% on our home floor. In the second, we shot 52% and that’s because of execution.”

“Those three E’s – energy, effort and execution – are why we won the game.”

It did not take long for those words to click with the Panthers. After the Saints pushed their lead to 41-28 on a jumper by DeMari Davis, Florida Tech began its comeback.

The spree started with a three-point play by Murphy to trim the margin to 10 points. Murphy then stole the ball on the ensuing FC possession and found Darius Wright for a fast-break layup to cut the deficit to 41-33 and from there the Panthers were off and running.

After it was all said and done, Florida Tech mounted a 22-4 run and grabbed a 50-46 advantage over Flagler following another three-point play by Murphy with 11:57 left on the clock.

The Saints eventually tied it back up at 52-52 on a three by Damerit Brown with 9:44 to go. The teams would exchange baskets over the next six minutes and, again, came to a tie at 66-66 with 3:42 left.

With the score tied, the Panthers were looking for a spark to carry them the final moments of the contest, and the team may have found that catalyst in their backup point guard.

“Darius Wright came up to me with minutes to go, with confidence in his face, and told me ‘we got this coach, we’re going to finish this’,” said Mims. “The irony of that statement is that Darius was the one standing on the line with seconds to go and a chance to ice the game for us. So he was right, and he did finish it for us.”

Florida Tech scored on three of its next four possessions to jump ahead, 72-69, on a jumper by Murphy with 2:03 left on the clock. Then, after stealing the ball on a key Flagler possession with 37 seconds left, Murphy drew a foul and made both of his free throws to give the Panthers a 74-71.

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A bad foul by Murphy allowed the Saints’ Gedi Juozapaitis to go to the line and bring his team back to within one point, 74-73, with 11 seconds to go.

Flagler put Wright on the line for the Panthers with seven seconds remaining. The sophomore made both of his attempts to give Tech a 76-73 advantage.

With one last-ditch effort to tie the game, Flagler’s Vaughn McCall got a good shot up from beyond the arc but it rimmed out and, as a result, Florida Tech secured its fifth win of the season.

Florida Tech will now look ahead to its SSC opener this Saturday, Dec. 1, as the Panthers host Eckerd at the Clemente Center. Tip-off between Tech and the Tritons is set for 4 p.m.

For the latest news, updates and information on the Florida Tech men’s basketball team, visit FloridaTechSports.com

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