Florida Tech Panthers Fall To Tiffin 78-74 In Winter Classic at the Clemente Center

By  //  December 20, 2018

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RJ Coil was just shy of a double-double with 14 points and nine boards. (Matthew Lanoue, FIT Image)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech erased a 19-point second half deficit in just over two minutes and drew within one possession of tying the game against Tiffin on Wednesday evening. However, the late surge and a career night from Derek Murphy were not enough as the Panthers fell, 78-74, in the final game of the Winter Classic at the Clemente Center.

The game was the final non-conference bout of the season for the Crimson & Gray, who finished with a 6-2 record versus out of league opponents.

Murphy recorded his fifth double-double of the season on a career-best 34 points, 13 rebounds, five steals, and three assists while playing all 40 minutes. The redshirt-junior bested his previous career-high of 33 points set earlier this season versus Tampa.

RJ Coil was just shy of a double-double with 14 points and nine boards. Antonis Pefanis added 12 points and six rebounds while shooting 4-of-9 from beyond the arc, while Valur Valsson dished out a game-high 11 assists to go along with seven points.

The Panthers got off to a terrific start and it looked like this was going to be a game they would run away with, wire-to-wire.

Threes by Murphy and Pefanis helped Tech take a quick 9-0 advantage less than three minutes into the contest.

From there, the Panthers continued their early melee. After building their lead to 19-8, Murphy went on to score seven straight points, capped by a score from the outside, to give Florida Tech a 15-point edge with 9:04 left in the first half.

However, it all changed with less than seven minutes to go in the half. A fast-break layup by TU’s Joshua Williams kicked off the Dragons’ run. Tiffin outscored the Panthers, 18-5, the remainder of the first half, drawing the game to a tie at 31-31 on a trey by Austin Adams with just six seconds left on the clock.

Turnovers dug the Panthers into a hole early in the second half, as Tiffin was able to grab a 51-41 advantage on a three by Justin Miller with 13:59 to go. Murphy answered by knocking down three consecutive baskets in less than a minute to bring Tech’s deficit to just four with 12:46 left.

The Dragons responded by going on 19-5 run, growing their advantage to 70-52 with just 5:36 remaining in the contest. After his player made the layup to put his team up 18 points, Tiffin head coach Tom Church called a timeout to compose his team ahead of the final moments.

However, what he did not realize is that crazy things have happened this year for the Panthers following a timeout. And it happened again tonight against Tiffin. The Crimson & Gray came out of that short break like a completely different team. They had increased energy on defense and higher efficiency on offense. Tech began to claw its way back.

An 18-3 run ensued over the next three minutes. After a fast-break three by Valsson trimmed the Panthers’ deficit to 73-70 with 2:12 to go, Church was forced to call another timeout.

Adams helped the Dragons by pushing their edge back to 75-70 with less than a minute left. Following a missed trey by Pefanis, TU’s lead moved to seven with a pair of free throws by Terrell Mabins with 25 seconds to go.

Murphy tried to will the Panthers back into it with two more makes in the final seconds, but it was too little too late as the Dragons went on to win their fifth game of the season.

Florida Tech shot 42.1 percent (24-of-57) from the field in the game and hit 40.7 percent (11-of-27) from beyond the arc. The Panthers also went 15-of-21 at the charity stripe.

The visiting Dragons made 43.8 percent (28-of-64) of their shot attempts, including 38.7 percent (12-of-31) from long range. TU converted 10-of-13 from the free throw line.

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The Crimson and Gray finished with more rebounds than Tiffin (39-34), but despite both teams gathering 11 offensive boards, the Dragons scored more on their second chance opportunities, 14-9. TU also held the edge in points in the paint (30-24), fast break points (20-9) and bench points (30-3).

Florida Tech will now get to enjoy a nice holiday break before returning to action and resuming SSC play with a battle against Barry on Dec. 30. Tipoff between the Buccaneers and Panthers is set for 4 p.m. at the Health & Sports Center in Miami Shores.

For the latest news, updates and information on the Florida Tech men’s basketball team, visit FloridaTechSports.com

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