Florida Tech’s Derek Murphy Drops 44 Points to Lead Panthers in Win Over Tritons 71-63

By  //  January 9, 2020

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Florida Tech forced 23 turnovers

Derek Murphy was an unstoppable force for Florida Tech Wednesday night as the senior scored a career-high 44 points to lead the Panthers to a 71-63 SSC victory over Eckerd College at the Clemente Center. (FIT Image)

 Brevard County Melbourne, Florida – Derek Murphy was an unstoppable force for Florida Tech Wednesday night as the senior scored a career-high 44 points to lead the Panthers to a 71-63 SSC victory over Eckerd College at the Clemente Center.

With the win, Florida Tech snapped a five-game losing streak to Eckerd. Their last victory over Eckerd was an 86-84 result on Nov. 16, 2016, in St. Petersburg.

The Tritons just had no answer for Murphy in the game. The Detroit, Michigan product, who established his previous career scoring best of 40 points last season against Rollins College on Feb. 27, 2019, connected on 15-of-28 shots from the field and 7-of-9 free throws against the Tritons. He also made 7-of-12 three-point field goals in the win while accounting for eight rebounds and three steals in 40 minutes of action.

Murphy’s 44 points are the most by any player in the Sunshine State Conference this season and the second-most scored by a player during head coach Billy Mims‘ 15-year tenure at Florida Tech. His former teammate, Sam Daniel, scored 47 against Nova Southeastern on Dec. 7, 2017.

“A lot of credit goes to my teammates who found me in the right spots during the game,” said Murphy. “Coach kept calling plays for me and I just continued to execute them. We got the win and that’s all that matters.”

“What a night for Derek Murphy,” exclaimed head coach Billy Mims.

“We needed somebody to pick up the slack during the tough offensive night for us. We just felt that Derek was going to be able to create stuff inside for us and could knock down some big threes for us. He was the game MVP and carried us on his back throughout the night.”

Murphy’s 44 points are the most by any player in the Sunshine State Conference this season and the second-most scored by a player during head coach Billy Mims’ 15-year tenure at Florida Tech. His former teammate, Sam Daniel, scored 47 against Nova Southeastern on Dec. 7, 2017. (FIT Image)

For the rest of the team, Sesan RussellValur Valsson and Runako Ziegler recorded six points in the game. Russell also had three steals while Valsson added a game-high seven assists to go along with four rebounds.

Antonis Pefanis filled up the stat sheet with five points, seven rebounds and four assists. Mate Papai scored all three of his points at the charity stripe while also finishing with six rebounds and a game-high four blocks.

A slow start by the Panthers had them down 11-4 early on following a three-point play by Eckerd’s Admir Radoncic with 14:21 left in the first half. Murphy got his team back in it scoring eight unanswered points on consecutive threes and then giving Tech the lead on his layup, from an assist by Valsson, with 11:42 to go before halftime.

Murphy’s third three of the game, also off an assist from Valsson, put the Panthers ahead 20-15 at the 5:27 mark of the first half. The Tritons tied the game at 23-23 with 42 seconds left when EC’s Travis Bianco stole the ball from Valsson and scored on a fast-break layup. With less than seven seconds to go before halftime, Eckerd’s Malcolm Whitlow was able to score an easy layup off an inbound pass and handed the Tritons a 25-23 advantage at the break.

Murphy accounted for 15 of his team’s 23 points in the first 20 minutes. (FIT Image)

The Panthers had a tumultuous first half shooting the ball as they went 8-of-33 (24.2%) from the field including 5-of-20 from long range.

Murphy accounted for 15 of his team’s 23 points in the first 20 minutes. Only three other Panthers recorded a point in the opening frame.

The beginning of the second half was back-and-forth between the teams as Tech found itself leading 36-34 following yet another three-point field goal by Murphy with 16:28 left. His basket kicked off a 17-6 run by the Panthers that increased their lead to 53-40 less than nine minutes to go.

The Tritons climbed back into the game with a 14-6 run, capping the spree with a three by Kristiyan Stavrev to make the score 59-54 with 4:06 remaining. Murphy answered right back with his seventh three of the game to push the lead back to eight.

With 15 seconds left, Murphy drew a foul and made both attempts at the line, the final points of his career night, to get Tech’s lead to 67-59. Despite Eckerd’s late efforts, the Panthers were able to make their free throws down the stretch and close out their second conference win of the season.

Florida Tech was able to overcome its rough shooting performance in the first half and concluded the game at 23-of-64 (35.9%) from the field, 10-of-35 (28.6%) from three and 15-of-22 on free throws. Eckerd made 27-of-58 (46.6%) shots in the game, including 3-of-16 (18.8%) beyond the arc and 6-of-13 at the charity stripe.

“I thought we did a tremendous job defensively in this game,” said Mims. “We came into this game with a mission to slow down this offense tonight including one of Eckerd’s key players, Travis Bianco. He came into the game averaging around 24 points per game in conference play, and we were able to limit him to just four points in the game.

“I thought we did a great job defensively as well as in forcing turnovers. Our guys forced Eckerd into 23 turnovers in the game, which resulted in a significant amount of scoring for us tonight.”

Tech outscored the Tritons 22-8 in points off turnovers and 19-10 in fast-break points. However, Eckerd controlled rebounding 44-35 which resulted in an 11-8 edge in second-chance points. The Tritons also had a significant advantage in points in the paint 38-18 while their bench outscored the Panthers 16-9.

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Florida Tech now must prepare for its toughest test of the season as the Panthers are set to travel to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, Jan. 11 for an SSC showdown with No. 4 Nova Southeastern. Tipoff between the Sharks and Panthers is set for 4 p.m. at the Rick Case Arena at the Don Taft University Center.

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

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