Florida Tech Panthers Edge Defending National Champs 99-93
By Florida Tech // December 7, 2015
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Facing defending national champion Florida Southern on Saturday, Florida Tech entered the matchup unafraid of the team that finished 36-1 last season. After going tic-for-tac most of the game, the Panthers used a late run in the second half to pull away from the Mocs 99-93 at Jenkins Field House.
The result put an end to FSC’s (4-4, 2-2 SSC) 12-game home winning streak going back to last season. The win also snapped the Panthers’ (7-2, 2-1 SSC) four-game losing streak to the Mocs, dating back to Feb. 23, 2012.
“I’m really proud of the guys tonight,” said head coach Billy Mims.
“This is a team (Florida Southern) that had won 12 straight home games, one of the nation’s longest home winning streaks. We are the first team all season to knock-off the defending champs on their home court. I’m really happy about the effort our guys put in this week to bounce back from a difficult road loss on Wednesday.”
Jordan Majors was one of six Panthers to finish in double-figures, scoring a team-high 23 points in addition to five rebounds.
Jermohn Queen notched 21 points and a game-high eight assists, while Patrick Anderson tacked on 15 points and five rebounds.
The contest opened with both teams exchanging baskets. After a layup by Sam Daniel to make it 10-7, the Mocs went on an 11-4 run to push their lead to 10 with 13:06 left in the stanza. However, the Panthers responded by outscoring FSC 16-6 to tie the game at 27-27 with 7:54 remaining in the first half.
The game was even the rest of the half as the teams went into the break tied at 40. Majors led all players with 12 points in the first 20 minutes, while Anderson and Queen each tallied 11 points.
FIT knocked down 45.9 percent from the field in the half and held the Mocs to just 37.2 percent shooting. Both squads recorded 18 points in the paint and received 12 off the bench in the opening stanza.
In the second half, the gameplay remained stable with both teams trading baskets. After a Tyler Ross layup cut FIT’s lead to one, at 70-69 with 8:32 remaining in the game, Mims called a timeout to get his team to regroup. Following the meeting, the Panthers pounced on FSC, outscoring them 11-2 over the next three minutes to grab their largest lead of the game at 10.
“We knew they were going to make a run on us at some point,” Mims stated.
“It was back and forth and I felt like it was the moment to make our run, and we needed one play. If we could come out of this timeout and execute and defend, then we were going to be able to make that run. We drew up a play, executed it and scored, then our defense got a stop and we went down and scored again. That’s how runs get started, stops and scores.”
FSC was able to cut into its deficit a bit, coming as close as five points with 51 seconds remaining, but time ran out on the Mocs as the Panthers garnered their seventh win of the season.
FIT made 66.7 percent of its shots in the second half, including 7-of-13 from beyond the arc. Hustle plays went a long way as the Panthers snagged more rebounds (43-41), scored more in the paint (40-34) and collected 34 points from the bench in the game.
“I told our guys that we need to focus on three keys to the ball game,” Mims explained.
“First, we needed to execute and shoot the ball well. In the first half we did a good job of that, making 46 percent of our shots. When the game was on the line in the second half, we stepped up and hit 67 percent of our shots. Another key for the game was to defend well. We came out of the gun playing great defense, holding them to just 37 percent shooting in the first half. For the ball game, on their home court, they shot just 41 percent from the field.”
“Our third key was rebounding,” he continued. “We were without our leading rebounder and scorer, Corbin Jackson, who is also the leading rebounder in the conference. We had to go up against a guy who is 6’10” and another who is 6’11” and in the end we battled all night long and came out on top in the rebounding department.”
Daniel and Randy Echols registered 14 and 13 points, respectively, combining for seven of FIT’s nine treys in the game. Isaac Spence also reached double-digits in the win, recording 11 points on 3-5 shooting from the field and 4-4 from the charity stripe.
“I can’t say how proud I am of this team,” stated Mims.
“We’ve had the toughest start of any Sunshine State Conference team. Going on the road to open league play at Tampa, at Eckerd, at Florida Southern and, coming up next, at Lynn. So it’s a tough, tough start to SSC play. Four straight road games for the Panthers and right now I can’t be any prouder of this basketball team.”
Following an eight-day break, Florida Tech returns to the Clemente Center for its meeting with Flagler College on Monday, Dec. 14. The contest is set to tipoff at 7:30 p.m. ET.