Florida Tech Men’s Hoops Battles Rollins Wednesday Night, Looks To End Two Game Losing Streak

By  //  January 13, 2016

Missing a bit of its swagger as of late, Florida Tech will look to regain its confidence at home Wednesday when it welcomes Sunshine State Conference rival Rollins at 7:30 p.m. ET. (FIT Image)

BREVRAD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Missing a bit of its swagger as of late, Florida Tech will look to regain its confidence at home Wednesday when it welcomes Sunshine State Conference rival Rollins at 7:30 p.m. ET.

After beginning the year 10-3, and a respective 3-1 in the SSC, the Panthers have slumped into their first losing skid of the season following back-to-back defeats last week to Saint Leo and Palm Beach Atlantic.

A 13-point halftime deficit doomed the Crimson and Gray in Wednesday’s 99-94 setback versus the Lions, but then in near-opposite fashion, relinquished their own 11-point second-half advantage Saturday en route to a frustrating 78-71 loss against the Sailfish.

“We have to get back to running our offense and moving the basketball,” said head coach Billy Mims.

“Right now, there’s just been a lot of confidence sucked out of this team. Maybe we thought we were better than we are. Ever since playing Lynn, we just haven’t been a very confident basketball team.”

Billy Mims
Billy Mims

Florida Tech still owns the league’s third-best scoring offense, but even so, its overall production has dipped because of careless turnovers and questionable shot selection.

Last week, the Panthers committed a combined 38 turnovers, opposed to 22 assists, and shot just 42.7 percent from the field, well below their season average of 49.0 percent.

In addition, defensively, the Panthers have already surrendered 90-plus points in a game five times.

“If it weren’t for the turnovers, we would’ve been up 10-12 points in the first half. Every one of our turnovers seemed to lead to a dunk or a lay-up by Palm Beach Atlantic, just some really bad ones.”

Despite the defeat, the Panthers still remain in sole possession of third in the conference standings and can use their experience facing Palm Beach Atlantic’s zone defense to their advantage with Rollins, and Nova Southeastern for that matter, upcoming.

“Rollins is going to zone us the entire game,” Mims said following last Saturday’s contest. “I think Rollins has an outstanding basketball team. This was great preparation for Rollins, in the sense that we had to come on the road and play virtually 40 minutes against a zone defense.”

After reaching as high as No. 11 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) poll, Rollins has taken a tumble after dropping five of its last six games, including a buzzer-beater at Saint Leo over the weekend.

Randy Echols
Randy Echols

The Tars, 4-4 away from home this season, are led by the duo of Jeff Merton and Sharif Almulla. Merton’s 15.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game are both tops on the team, while Almulla’s 14.9 points per game ranks 12th overall in the SSC.

FIT swept the Tars in both meetings a year ago, earning a 69-65 victory at home last January.

“We’re at home, but we’re going to have to shoot the ball a lot better against Rollins,” said Mims. “If we go 9-for-26 (from beyond the arc) we may very well struggle again. We must limit our turnovers, and we better defend a lot better than we have or this two-game losing streak will become a three-game losing streak. We have to go back to Clemente and start to play better basketball at home this season than we have been.”

Jim Mitchell and Paul Van Scott will have the call live from the Clemente Center. For complete coverage, log onto FloridaTechSports.com/live.