Florida Tech Falls To Rollins 89-74, Jackson Contributes 25 Points
By Florida Tech // January 14, 2016
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech appeared on the verge on snapping its season-long two-game losing skid, but then unfortunately ran into Rollins’ Jeff Merton.
The 6-5 sophomore notched 20 of his career-high 28 points in the second half as the Tars spurned the Panthers 89-74 Wednesday night at the Clemente Center.
Florida Tech limited Rollins’ Sharif Almulla, the team’s second-leading scorer, to just two points on 1-of-5 shooting, but what he lacked was made up for by Merton.
The Naples, Florida native finished 10-of-17 from the floor, and at one point tallied 16 straight points to help the Tars blow open an even-matched contest. Together, Merton and fellow forward Mike Bedulskis combined for 42 points in the effort, lifting Rollins back above .500 at 4-3 in the Sunshine State Conference.
“Merton had a great game tonight,” said Florida Tech head coach Billy Mims.
“I thought both of their bigs, including Bedulskis, destroyed us down inside – that hurt.
“Whoever lost this game was going to be disappointed. It’s the same old same old for us. We continue to turn the ball over too much, and when we struggled on offense, we let down defensively.”
Corbin Jackson carried the Panthers with a season-high 25 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. Jordan Majors added 15 points and eight boards, while Randy Echols chipped in with 14 points off the bench.
“Monster game tonight from Corbin Jackson,” said Mims.
“We just didn’t have enough of his teammates to help him. We wanted to get the ball inside, and when we did good things happened. I hate to say it, but I don’t think he got enough touches.”
The Panthers fed off a packed Clemente Center crowd in the early going. A pair of quick treys, including one from Isaac Spence in his first start of the year, put Florida Tech out in front 8-2 right away less than two minutes into the ball game.
Minutes later, a beautiful spin and dish from Majors to Jackson for the easy two-handed flush extended the advantage to 17-10, before Sam Daniel connected on a three from the corner to make it a double-digit cushion.
Merton lassoed the visitors back to within one, though, on a runner in the lane for two of his eight points in the first half. The Tars run would continue, and after trailing by as many as 11 points, claimed their first lead of the night on an Eric Castaneda lay-in with 3:30 to play before halftime.
Following an inspiring start, Florida Tech entered the break trailing 40-36.
“We have these spurts where we just seem to stop scoring,” said Mims.
“If we’re going to stop scoring, we better get stops every time down the floor. We didn’t do that, and that was the difference. When we let them get back in it with the lead at the half, that was all the confidence and momentum I think they needed.”
Both clubs traded baskets for nearly the first eight minutes of the second half until Jackson converted a dunk and the foul to put the Panthers back on top for the first time since the 4:12 mark of the opening stanza.
Florida Tech started 5-of-5 from deep in the second half, but even that wasn’t enough to overshadow the show put on by Merton. Merton notched all 20 of his points after halftime in a 6:23 span, allowing Rollins to withstand any sort of Florida Tech surge to send the Panthers to their third consecutive loss, and fourth in five games overall.
The 89 points scored by the Tars was the most recorded since Nov. 24 in a win over Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, covering a stretch of nine contests.
FIT will have a bit of a breather with the weekend off, but will return to the court Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET in another tough matchup at home against Nova Southeastern.
Live coverage will be available at FloridaTechSports.com/live.