FIT Falls To Florida Southern In Men’s Basketball

By  //  January 27, 2013

Panthers Now 7-9 Overall

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Down by 18 points with eight minutes to play, the newly dubbed Florida Tech “comeback kids” nearly pulled off a big upset against 14th-ranked Florida Southern, but the Moccasins hung on for a 95-92 win over the Panthers on Saturday evening at the Clemente Center.

Florida Tech’s Terrance Tubbs collected the first double-double of his FIT career with 12 points and 10 rebounds in a home loss to Florida Southern on Saturday. (Image courtesy of Florida Tech)

The win was Florida Southern’s first in Melbourne in five years as it improved to 14-2 overall and 6-1 in Sunshine State Conference play. FIT has now lost three straight and falls to 7-9, 1-6 SSC.

Having won 11 of its last 12 games, the Moccasins were faced with a 10-point deficit early in the game. However, Tyler Kelly’s long distance shot capped a 17-6 run and gave his team a 25-21 lead with 10:55 to play.

Florida Southern would go on to hit five consecutive three-pointers before finishing the half a sizzling 52.6 percent (10-of-19) behind the arc. Kelly hit four of those threes to conclude with 14 first-half points. At the break, the Panthers trailed 55-43.

Their largest deficit of 18 points came with just over eight minutes to play. Just as it seemed like the Moccasins’ lead was insurmountable, FIT went to work. In less than four minutes, the Panthers trailed by three points on a layup by Terrance Tubbs.

The tight game didn’t last long, though, as Florida Southern built up a 10-point lead in one minute and three seconds. FIT would once again show resiliency on its home floor. This time, they trimmed their deficit down to two with 25 seconds to go on a pair of free throws by Julius Reid.

Reid committed his fifth foul of the game and departed with 15 seconds to play. The foul sent Kelly to the line for a pair. He made his second attempt to make it a three-point game. The Panthers had a chance to tie, but were unable to get off a good shot.

“The one thing that’s consistent with our basketball team is there’s no quit,” head coach Billy Mims said. “I call them the comeback kids. Night in and night out, I don’t care where we are or who we’re playing, we always fight back. We’re 1-6 right now and there’s nobody that’s more frustrated than I am about our record in Sunshine State Conference play. Nobody has blown us out. We’re always there, always knocking on the door. We just can’t seem to finish. What a great comeback today. We kept making plays and the guys kept believing in each other and fighting.”

The Moccasins finished the game 32-of-69 from the field for 46 percent. The Panthers ended 32-of-65 for nearly 50 percent.

“Florida Southern shot lights out in the first half,” Mims said. “They were 10-for-19 from behind the arc, but in the second half, they were 1-for-7. Defensively, we did an incredible job in the last 20 minutes. Our offense made 54 percent of our shots in the second half. When we had to make buckets, we did. Free throws hurt us again today. We missed 10 free throws.

“We outrebounded them 41-37, won the points in the paint 46-30, won points off turnovers 27-26 and won second-chance points, 14-11,” Mims said. “The only two stats they won were fast break points and bench scoring. I told our guys at the end it’s frustrating to lose games simply because we don’t make free throws. It’s hard to ask your guys to be perfect at the line. We don’t need to be. We only needed to make four more free throws tonight and we would have won the game.”

All five Panther starters finished in double figures. Chris Carter and Reid both scored a game-high 23 points. Jermaine Jackson pitched in 17 points on 8-of-12 from the floor. David Usic had 14 points. Tubbs collected his first double-double of his FIT career with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Reid, the nation’s leader in steals per game, was held to one steal. He is now averaging 4.2 steals through FIT’s first 16 games of the season. He also dished out seven assists and Jackson had five.

The FIT and Florida Southern coaching staffs wore sneakers with their standard game attire for a nationwide initiative that is taking place this weekend, Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers.

The Panthers will travel to Tampa on Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. game against the Spartans. They will then return home to play host to Barry on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 4 p.m. at the Clemente Center.

During halftime of the game versus Barry, Mims and the Panthers will present Barry with a check for the money FIT collected in donations and through a silent auction for the Cesar Odio Leukemia Foundation.

Odio, Barry’s head men’s basketball coach, is battling Leukemia for the second time.