Abilene Christian Turns Back FIT In Las Vegas

By  //  December 17, 2012

Panthers Host Iowa Wesleyan On Wednesday

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA –Florida Tech (4-3) regrouped from a rough first half by outscoring Abilene Christian (5-5) in the final 20 minutes, but the Wildcats prevailed with an 82-72 win in the final game of the Las Vegas Desert Classic on Sunday at the Doolittle Center.

Jermaine Jackson led Florida Tech with 21 points on Sunday in a loss to Abilene Christian in the Las Vegas Desert Classic. (Image courtesy of Florida Tech)

Abilene Christian held the Panthers to 28.6 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent shooting from behind the arc in the opening half. On the opposite end of the floor, Abilene Christian connected on 51.7 percent of its shots and nearly 43 percent of its attempts from long distance.

A 12-point halftime lead for the Wildcats increased to an 18-point advantage with 13:38 to play. However, FIT clawed itself back into the game. A 9-0 run punctuated by a steal and layup from Julius Reid made it a six-point game with 8:33 on the clock.

Abilene Christian’s lead hovered around nine points until Jermaine Jackson hit a jumper to cut it to seven at the 2:09 mark. Unfortunately, the seven-point deficit would be the closest the Panthers would get in the final two minutes.

“I told the team today’s game was about character,” head coach Billy Mims said. “Yesterday, we felt like we beat ourselves and we wanted to bounce back with a stronger game today. We turned the ball over way too many times in the first half. After going into the locker room down by 12 at the half, we told ourselves we can win this game with a good second half. We came out, played hard and showed resilience in the final 20 minutes.”

Jackson led the Panthers in points with 21. He was closely followed by Chris Carter who had 20 points, 12 were registered from three-point range. Reid finished with 14 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists.

Randy Echols corralled a team-high eight rebounds coming off the bench. Bryant Willis also gave FIT quality minutes, scoring seven points with six rebounds and two steals.

“I’m proud of the team for showing a lot of character today,” Mims said. “We outrebounded Abilene Christian 41-36. We were even in points in the paint, won points off turnovers and second chance points. Bryant Willis might have played his way into a starting role. He had seven points with six rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes off the bench. Nick Stahl had a big three and a bucket. Julius Reid and Jermaine Jackson had four steals each. Randy Echols had a team-high eight rebounds and was a big reason why we outrebounded them. I can’t say enough about Jermaine. He was a workhorse and was one of the biggest reasons we got back into the game.”

Abilene Christian was led by Eric Lawton’s game-high 29 points. Parker Wentz recorded all four of his field goals behind the arc and finished with 16. Steven Werner, a regular in the Wildcats’ starting lineup, came off the bench and had 13 points.

“They’re a really good basketball team and they’re going Division I next year,” Mims said. “They have three Division I transfers in their starting lineup. I feel really good about our young basketball team not giving up. We actually won the second half. Even though we lost both games in this classic, everyone at home should be proud of how our team played and represented Florida Tech.

“This trip wouldn’t be possible without the support of our administration. We’ll learn a lot from these two games. This experience was a great opportunity for our team.”

The Panthers will return to Melbourne to prepare for Iowa Wesleyan on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Clemente Center.