Florida Tech Men’s Basketball Comes Up Short Against No. 14 Florida Southern 86-79
By Florida Tech // January 3, 2020
Sesan Russell led team with 17 points
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – The Florida Tech men’s basketball team fell short in its Sunshine State Conference matchup with No. 14 Florida Southern on Thursday evening as the Panthers dropped an 86-79 result at the Clemente Center.
After trailing by as much as 14 in the second half, Tech clawed its way back to make it a one-possession game, twice, within the last 20 seconds of the contest. However, the Moccasins were able to take advantage of the Panthers’ mental mistakes late in the game and sneak away with the win.
“This was quite a game against a very good team,” said head coach Billy Mims. “We always have great battles with Florida Southern over my 15 years here in Melbourne, and this one was no different. I thought we were good enough team to win tonight, we defended well but they just played smarter than we did in the game.
“There were three or four plays in the last three minutes where we beat ourselves. If we had just stayed within the game plan, within our system, and trusted ourselves and what we were doing, we just might have been able to pull the upset.”
Despite the loss, five Panthers did find themselves scoring in double-figures at the end of the night. In total, nine out of the 10 starters in the game finished with double-digit points including all five from the Mocs’ lineup.
For Tech, Sesan Russell ended as the team leader with 17 points to go along with three rebounds and three assists. Russell also made 10-of-11 at the free-throw line. Derek Murphy recorded his third double-double of the season on 16 points and 15 rebounds. Antonis Pefanis added 13 points in the game as well as Nieja Jordan, who scored his 13 off the bench. Runako Ziegler finished with 11 points for the Panthers. Jordan and Mekhii Noble each tallied three blocks in the loss.
After a poor shooting first half in which the teams combined to go 24-of-78 from the field, both squads picked up their play after halftime. The Panthers closed the game shooting 26-of-69 (37.7%) and 21-of-26 from the charity stripe. The Mocs ended 33-of-78 (42.3%) and made 14-of-19 of its free throws.
However, neither Florida Tech nor Florida Southern could find much success from long range. There were a total of 51 three-pointers attempted Thursday night and the teams only made six each.
FSC won the rebounding battle 49-42 and finished with more points off turnovers 16-15, points in the paint 48-34, second-chance points 16-10, and fast-break points 22-18. The Panthers’ bench did outscore the Mocs’ 20-5.
It was an even draw between Tech and FSC in the first half. The first 20 minutes were back-and-forth for the teams with five lead changes and nine ties occurring during that span. The Panthers accounted for the largest lead of the first half at five points, 18-13, following a three-pointer by Russell with 9:38 left in the opening frame.
That lead did not last long as the Mocs ensued on a 16-7 run and grabbed a 29-25 advantage with 2:49 remaining. Pefanis answered with a three and Ziegler then hit a pair of free throws to push Tech back in front 30-29 with 1:57 to go in the half.
However, FSC outscored Tech 7-2 the remainder of the first half and carried a 36-32 advantage into the break.
Pefanis struck again from outside early in the second half to cut the margin to 36-35 but the Mocs responded with 11 straight points to take a 47-35 lead with 16:33 left.
The Panthers then found themselves trailing by as much as 14 points in the second half before making their rally. After being fouled on his three-point attempt, Russell converted all three shots at the line to cut the difference to five points, 61-56, with 7:27 to go.
Again, the Mocs answered, this time with a 7-0 run to increase their lead to 12 with 6:11 left on the clock. Florida Tech continued to fight down the stretch and cut it to a one-possession game, 80-77, on a put-back by Murphy with just 20 seconds remaining.
In an effort to save the clock, the Panthers fouled to put Florida Southern at the line but the Mocs made both attempts to push the lead to five points. Russell then darted down the court and was able to draw the foul and get to the free-throw line. He hit both tries to make it a three-point game again with 12 seconds to go.
However, a mental miscue by the Panthers allowed FSC to find a wide-open player for an easy fast-break dunk off the inbound to push its lead to 84-79. The Mocs corralled the rebound after a missed layup by Russell in the final seconds, drew a foul and then closed out the game at the line to escape with the seven-point win.
Florida Tech will have just one day to prepare for its next conference matchup, a road showdown with No. 20 Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach. The Panthers and Eagles are set to tipoff at 7:30 p.m. from the ICI Center.
For the latest news, updates and information on the Florida Tech men’s basketball team, visit FloridaTechSports.com. Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest Panthers news by following Florida Tech Athletics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
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