Win Streak Ends For Panthers In SCC Tournament

By  //  March 9, 2013

FIT Waits For NCAA Division II Bid

KISSIMMEE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech (16-11) entered the Sunshine State Conference Championship as the hottest team in the league, but cold shooting plagued the fourth-seeded Panthers in a 57-42 loss to fifth-seeded Rollins (18-9) in the quarterfinal round Friday afternoon at Silver Spurs Arena.

Florida Tech coach Billy Mims saw his team’s win streak stopped at nine games in the conference tournament on Friday, but the team still has a chance at earning a NCAA Division II tournament bid. (Image courtesy of Florida Tech)

The Panthers’ nine-game win streak, their longest since the 2007-08 season, comes to an end with the loss.

FIT still has a chance to be invited to its second straight NCAA Division II Championship. The field of 64 teams will be announced in a selection show at on Sunday at 10:30 p.m.

In the final South Region poll released this past Wednesday, the Panthers were ranked eighth in the region. Prior to the selection show, a national committee will vote on the top eight teams from each of the eight regions in the United States.

Against Rollins, the Panthers were held to 23.1 percent (15-of-65) shooting from the field and just 14.8 percent (4-of-27) from the arc. Both teams were almost even in three-pointers made and were identical in free throws made. The one main difference in shooting was the Tars made seven more field goals. Rollins also won points in the paint, 28-18.

“This wasn’t a game decided by three-pointers,” head coach Billy Mims said. “It was decided by points in the paint. They got the ball down inside and scored a lot better than we did. Rollins plays a 2-1-2 packed-in zone. In a place like this, where it’s difficult to shoot threes, that’s probably the way to go. When you’re playing against Rollins, you have to shoot the ball well. Defensively, we held Rollins to 57 points. That’s as good we could play defensively. We just didn’t make shots. When you don’t make shots, you’re not going to beat a zone Rollins team.”

Rollins won the opening tip-off and Mitch Woods hit a three-pointer for the game’s first bucket. Julius Reid tied the contest with a three-pointer less than two minutes later. After that point, Rollins built a 17-point lead with 5:16 left in the first half. At the break, the Tars led 33-23.

In the first 11 minutes of the second half, the Panthers were able to cut their deficit down to seven. However, the Tars would not allow FIT to get any closer.

“I’m not really sure that Rollins beat us as much as we beat ourselves,” Mims said. “I thought we didn’t play as hard as we should have in the first half. We didn’t give a championship effort. They played harder and smarter than us in the first half. We stepped up our effort in the second half, but we didn’t play smart enough to win the basketball game. We settled for a lot of shots.”

Chris Carter was the only Panther to score in double figures as he finished with 16 and eight rebounds. Reid had five points with nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.

If the game was the Panthers’ last of the season, they finish the year having won nine of their final 10 games. Although they had a 1-7 record after the first half of SSC play, they went a perfect 8-0 in the second half.

“This team had a great finish to the regular season,” Mims said. “For the month of February, we were the best basketball team in the conference. We had a goal to turn our season around. This is the worst defeat we’ve had all season. Our previous worst was 12 points against Rollins.

“The bottom line is this is a young basketball team. We have one senior in Julius Reid. He had a great career and we’re going to miss him. We bring a lot of good players back and they’re going to come back with confidence. They went through the entire conference in the second half and beat everybody to finish in the top four in this league.”