Florida Tech Tames St. Leo Lions

By  //  February 17, 2013

Panthers Meet Lynn On Wednesday

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech (12-10, 5-7 SSC) stream rolled 16th-ranked Saint Leo 76-50 on Saturday at the Clemente Center to extend its win streak to a season-high five games. The win was the Panthers’ first over a nationally ranked opponent this season.

Jermaine Jackson led Florida Tech with 30 points in a Sunshine State Conference victory over St. Leo on Saturday. (Image courtesy of Florida Tech)

The Lions (18-5, 10-3 SSC) entered the game tied for first place in the Sunshine State Conference with Florida Southern. They had won six straight games and eight of their last 10. The Panthers were tied for fifth with Nova Southeastern after beating third-place Rollins on Wednesday. With the win, they will remain in that spot after Nova Southeastern defeated Tampa 75-52 on Saturday.

Earlier this season, Saint Leo stunned current ACC leader and the No. 3 ranked Miami Hurricanes 69-67 in exhibition play in Coral Gables. It then lost to Florida State 65-56 in Tallahassee to conclude its exhibition season.

Jermaine Jackson helped the Panthers jump out to a 39-18 halftime lead with 16 points on 8-of-10 from the field. The Panther defense forced the Lions to miss their first eight shots as FIT led 12-1 after the opening 6:47. Saint Leo finished the period just 6-of-28 from the floor for a 21.4 field goal percentage.

“I thought we dictated the tempo of the game,” head coach Billy Mims said. “Against the teams it’s beaten, Saint Leo has done a tremendous job of dictating the tempo. Even the University of Miami and Florida State University weren’t able to dictate tempo against Saint Leo. Saint Leo held Miami to 67 points and Florida State to 65 points on both their floors. We wanted to be the aggressive team tonight. From David Usic winning the tap to Julius Reid driving and attacking the basket, our guys understood and bought into the game plan of the need to be the aggressive team. We had Saint Leo on its heels in the early stages of the game when we had a big lead. We defended so well. They missed their first eight shots and we were making shots.”

Saint Leo cut its 21-point halftime deficit to 13 points before Julius Reid found Randy Echols for his second of three three-pointers. His last trey with 9:26 remaining extended the Panthers’ lead to 19. He finished the game with a career-high 11 points, five rebounds and two blocks.

The Panthers held the Lions’ leading scorer Marcus Ruh to just two points after averaging 17.1 points per game entering the game. Jerrel Harris, who was second in scoring on the team at 14.3, had 10.

“We did a great job on their leading scorer Marcus Ruh,” Mims said. “We did a better job on Jerrel Harris than we did at their place. Defensively, we held them to 30 percent shooting for the ballgame. It was one of our best defensive efforts all year. I commented to Jim Mitchell at the end of the ballgame, this may be the first time I’ve ever seen us win nearly every single category on the stat sheet. It was a complete team performance.”

Jackson ended the game 14-of-20 from the field for 30 points. His point total was just two points off his career-high, while his 14 field goals were a new personal mark. Tubbs had 17 points. Reid and Carter combined to go 3-of-15 from the field, but both made contributions in other areas. Reid had 11 rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Carter had seven rebounds and six assists.

“If you would have told me before the game, the Sunshine State Conference’s leading scorer Chris Carter was going to go 1-for-10 and Julius Reid 2-for-5, I would’ve thought it was going to be a tough night for us,” Mims said. “Jermaine Jackson’s numbers were huge all week. He had a monster game. Terrance Tubbs had a great game. He was the leader on the floor. He showed a lot of maturity and leadership that you expect from a veteran guy to bring to a young team. Randy Echols had a great week. He hit some big shots at Rollins and went 3-for-3 behind the arc.

“Although Julius Reid didn’t score a whole lot of points or shoot the ball particularly well, he had a big night rebounding, he had eight assists and four steals to still lead the nation. He’s the floor leader, the general, the force behind this team. He was second team all-conference a year ago. I think he’s the best point guard in the SSC. He will be up for consideration for all-region and all-American. I’m happy for him and the success he’s had in his career. He’s a local kid that chose Florida Tech for all the right reasons. He came here because he wanted to be a civil engineer. Unfortunately, he has only four more regular-season games in his career. It’s going to be a real sad Senior Night this year when we honor one senior player, Julius Reid. I hope our postseason will go on, and on, and on because I’m going to miss coaching Julius Reid.”

The Panthers will travel to Lynn on Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. SSC tilt. On Saturday, the Fighting Knights lost to Rollins 53-46 to fall to 11-12, 3-10 SSC.