Florida Tech Basketball Couldn’t Slow Down Red-Hot Barry University in Season Opener Falling 102-83

By  //  February 26, 2021

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TECH'S Russell scored game-high 25 points

Sesan Russell scored a game-high 25 points but it was not enough to overcome a hot-shooting Barry squad Wednesday evening as Florida Tech fell 102-83 in the season opener for both teams at the Health & Sports Center. (Florida Tech image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Sesan Russell scored a game-high 25 points but it was not enough to overcome a hot-shooting Barry squad Wednesday evening as Florida Tech fell 102-83 in the season opener for both teams at the Health & Sports Center.

In addition to leading all scorers in the game, Russell paced Tech with seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals.

Runako Ziegler added 19 points on 6-10 shooting, three rebounds, and two steals. Sean Houpt came off the bench to have quite a debut for the Crimson & Gray scoring 17 points on 4-9 from the field including two makes from long range.

“Sesan looked really good through parts of the game, like an All-American, able to score in a lot of ways,” stated head coach Billy Mims. “Runako was the most explosive player on the floor at times.

Houpt had an explosive first game for us. He came off the bench and really had a good basketball game and gave us a spark.”

Mekhii Noble finished with 12 points and seven rebounds for the Panthers while freshman Elias Martin recorded six points on 3-4 shooting and four rebounds in his first collegiate action.

Barry was guided by Marcelo Perez’ 19 points in the game.

Four other Bucs scored in double-figures Wednesday night including double-doubles by Justinas Marcinkevicius with 18 points and 13 rebounds and Amari Haynes with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

In its first game in 364 days, Tech got off to a slow start offensively in the first half and finished the contest shooting 30-69 (43.5%) from the field, including just 4-19 (21.1%) from three, and 19-30 on free throws.

“Several things hurt us in the first half including us not shooting the ball very well especially from three and on free throws,” said Mims.

“Barry’s ability to get shots off quickly and their physical defense also bothered us and forced us into poor shot-selection and decision-making on offense. Barry turned the game into a track meet, and it resulted in a lot of easy buckets for them and really put us in a hole early on.”

Barry finished the game with 25 points off fast breaks. The Bucs made 37-74 (50%) of their shot attempts in the contest while going 11-29 (37.9%) beyond the arc and 17-24 at the charity stripe.

Barry ended with an advantage in rebounding (51-36) and second-chance points (19-12). Both teams had 14 turnovers for the contest.

Noble scored the season’s first bucket for Florida Tech on a layup 1:04 into the game to tie the score at 2-2.

Russell accounted for the next six points for the Panthers including a turnaround jumper that gave Tech its last lead of the game, 8-6, with 16:01 to go in the half.

Barry would then catch fire and go on a 22-7 run to build a 28-15 lead with 10:09 remaining in the first. The Bucs’ lead ballooned to 41-22 following a trey by Jake Kakar just after the 23-minute mark of the half.

However, a 15-2 run by the Bucs increased their lead to 56-30 with just over a minute left and they eventually took a 56-34 advantage into the break following four consecutive free throws by Houpt to close the half. (Florida Tech image)

However, a 15-2 run by the Bucs increased their lead to 56-30 with just over a minute left and they eventually took a 56-34 advantage into the break following four consecutive free throws by Houpt to close the half.

After a difficult first half on the offensive end, the Panthers improved their play after halftime and were able to outscore Barry 49-46 in the second half.

Over the final 20 minutes, Tech shot 50% (17-34) from the field, 37.5% (3-8) from three, and 12-17 at the line.

“Even though our guys were down by a lot, they showed a lot of courage to keep coming back in the second half,” said Mims.

“We played their game, got after Barry, and started forcing them to deal with a full-court press and take tough shots.”

Tech got the second-half scoring started with a thunderous slam by Noble, off an assist from Russell, to bring the deficit to 20 just 12 seconds into the period.

However, the Bucs picked up where they left off in the first half and went on a 15-4 run to grow their lead to 70-40 with 16:10 to go.

The teams exchanged buckets the next eight minutes but a quick 8-2 spurt by the Bucs gave them their largest lead of the game 90-55 with 7:39 remaining.

Not going down without a fight, Tech closed out the contest on a 28-12 run, capped by a layup from Noble with 10 seconds left, to decrease the final margin to 19 points.

“I’m so proud of this team of how they continued to fight throughout the game, we never looked like we were facing an insurmountable margin,” said Mims.

“Our guys never quit, they stayed focused, always had the intensity on their faces and the belief that they could come back. That shows a lot about the character of this team.”

“No matter the outcome of the game, I was so excited for this team to get on the court and play a game after going 364 days and 67 practices without one.”

Florida Tech and Barry will not have to wait long to play their second games of the season as the two teams will meet again Thursday evening, this time on the Panthers’ home court at the Clemente Center. Tip-off for the second matchup is set for 5 p.m. Fans can watch the live stream of the contest at FloridaTechSports.com/live.

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