Panthers Celebrate Road Victory Over Moccasins

By  //  February 25, 2013

Jackson Scores 25 In Signature Win

LAKELAND, FLORIDA – Florida Tech accomplished a feat it hasn’t done in seven years Saturday night, defeating sixth-ranked Florida Southern at the Jenkins Field House, 83-78. The Panthers have now won seven straight games, two have come against top 20 opponents.

Florida tech coach Billy Mims has guided FIT to a record of 14-10 and 7-7 in conference games despite concluding the first half of conference play at 1-7. (Image courtesy of Florida Tech)

FIT (14-10, 7-7 SSC) entered the game in fifth place in the Sunshine State Conference despite concluding the first half of conference play at 1-7. It is now two games behind fourth-place Eckerd (17-6, 9-5 SSC), which had a bye on Saturday.

Florida Southern (19-5, 10-4 SSC) was ranked No. 1 in the South Region heading into the game. It was also in sole possession of second place in the SSC.

“This is an incredible group of young men,” head coach Billy Mims said. “We haven’t won on this floor since my first year at Florida Tech seven years ago. We were down eight points at halftime. I told the guys in the locker room, the pace of the game favored us. We did a great job of dictating tempo tonight. That’s what it took to win this game. They’re a run and gun basketball team. They lead our league in scoring. We won the second half 52-39. We shot 64 percent on their floor in the second half. Two major forces were Terrance Tubbs and Jermaine Jackson. We kept going down inside to them and they kept finishing.”

Florida Southern had its largest lead of the game at 11 points with 18:43 to play. The Panthers chipped away at their deficit and took over the lead albeit briefly with just over 10 minutes on the clock.

The Moccasins responded by taking a seven-point advantage at the 5:37 mark. Just like it has done all year, FIT did not give up. Terrance Tubbs tied the game at 71-all after completing a three-point play with 3:31 to go.

Although Jermaine Jackson’s layup with 2:46 remaining gave the Panthers the lead for good, Florida Southern never trailed by more than four points until Randy Echols hit his second free throw with five seconds left.

“Just like at Florida Tech earlier this season, we won the second half tonight,” Mims said. “They were 5-for-14 behind the arc in the first half. In the second half, they were 3-for-13. Chris [Carter] did a wonderful job on Seth Evans. We also did a great job guarding Kevin Capers and Cameron Vines. I told our guys in the locker room, we lost the first game because we let Vines and Capers combine for 38 points. Tonight, we held Capers and Vines to a combined 10 points.”

Jackson finished with a game-high 25 points and has now scored 20 or more points in 10 games this season. Heading into the 2012-13 campaign, he achieved the 20-plus point mark one time as a freshman. Tubbs had 24 points. Julius Reid contributed 13 and Chris Carter had 10.

The Panthers outshot the Moccasins on their home floor, 49.2 percent to 38.6 percent. They also dominated points in the paint 44-26 and won points off turnovers 21-13.

By storming back from a 10-plus point deficit, the “Comeback Kids” as Mims coined them have rallied from being down double digits in six games this season. The Panthers have won four of those games and in the two they lost, they came up short in overtime on the road.

“This team believes in itself,” Mims said. “Seven wins in a row is how many we won in a row last year. That’s phenomenal. We’re 7-7 in the league now with two more games to play, both are at home.”

The Panthers will return to the Clemente Center on Wednesday, Feb. 27 for their annual Make-A-Wish Night and Blackout Game. Nova Southeastern will travel to Melbourne for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.

FIT will conclude the regular season by playing at home one final time this year on Saturday, March 2 against Tampa. Mims and the Panthers will recognize senior Julius Reid before the game as part of Senior Day. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m.