Florida Tech Basketball Defeats University of Tampa 86-77 in Regular Season Finale

By  //  March 15, 2021

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Sunshine State Conference Basketball Tournament begins march 16

Sesan Russell recorded his first career triple-double and guided Florida Tech to its third straight win, an 86-77 result over Tampa in Saturday’s regular-season finale at the Clemente Center. (Florida Tech image)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Sesan Russell recorded his first career triple-double and guided Florida Tech to its third straight win, an 86-77 result over Tampa in Saturday’s regular-season finale at the Clemente Center.

Russell posted 25 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds, all game-highs while shooting 9-19 from the field in the contest.

The London, England product is the first Panther to record a triple-double since Corbin Jackson’s 19-point, 15-rebound, and 10-block performance against North Greenville on December 20, 2013.

“Sesan did a great job controlling the basketball game,” said head coach Billy Mims. “This could have been his second triple-double of the week, he was one assist short of it on Wednesday. He’s averaged a triple-double over the last two games and led our team to a 2-0 week, three wins in a row, and momentum heading into the SSC Tournament.”

“He won the SSC Player of the Week award last week and he should get it again for his performance this week.”

Mekhi Noble also had a good game for the Crimson & Gray, tallying a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocked shots. Sean Houpt added 14 points and two rebounds while Runako Ziegler finished with 10 points on 5-6 shooting to go along with two steals. Niall Harris contributed seven points, four steals, and three rebounds.

Florida Tech honored two of its players, Trey Schaneville and Nieja Jordan, during the Senior Day ceremony before the game. Both made an impact on the win, combining for 13 points and three rebounds.

As a ream, Florida Tech made 35-76 (46.1%) from the field with 12 made threes to go along with a 4-6 effort at the charity stripe. Tampa shot 26-56 (46.4%) in the game while converting eight three-pointers and 17-22 at the line.

Tech controlled the area around the baskets, winning the rebounding battle, 41-30, and outscoring Tampa in the paint, 42-32, as well as on second-chance points, 17-7.

The Panthers made the most of the Spartans’ mistakes, turning 13 of UT’s turnovers into 21 points. Tampa scored just 10 points off Tech’s 12 turnovers.

“I always believe the intangibles tell you one thing about a game,” Mims stated. “If you are winning the intangibles, your team is playing hard. When you out-rebound your opponent, you knock down threes and you don’t turn the ball over you can win games. And that’s what we did today.”

It was a back-and-forth game early on with both teams trading baskets through the first nine minutes of the contest.

A three by Schaneville, one of his three made shots beyond the arc in the game, handed Tech an 18-15 lead with 12:31 to go in the first half. Tampa answered with five straight points by Max Jones to give the Spartans their final lead of the game, 20-18, with 11:01 left on the clock.

The Panthers then took over with an 18-4 run, including threes by Russell, Harris and Houpt, to jump out to a 36-24 advantage with 5:26 to go in the first. An alley-oop slam dunk by Noble off an assist from Russell increased Tech’s lead to 15 points, 46-31, with 1:36 remaining in the half.

The Spartans hit two shots in the final minute to trim the Panthers’ advantage to 11 at the halftime break.

Russell was well on his way to the triple-double after the first 20 minutes of action with 17 points, nine assists and five rebounds.

The Panthers opened the second half by growing their lead to 17 on a steal and score by Harris to make the margin 60-43 with 14:06 remaining. Tampa responded with an 11-2 run over the next few minutes to cut the deficit to single-digits, 62-54, after a three-point play by Jones.

Tech answered with its own 10-2 run, which included a pair of threes by Schaneville, to push its lead back to 16 points, 72-56, with 9:55 left on the clock.

The Panthers’ lead remained in double-figures for much of the remainder of the game as they cruised to their third straight win.

Florida Tech will look to keep the momentum going when they square off with Tampa again at the Clemente Center next Tuesday, March 16, for the first round of the 2021 Sunshine State Conference Basketball Tournament.

“There is no easy path to winning a Sunshine State Conference Championship,” said Mims. “It doesn’t matter who we have to play throughout the tournament, it’s going to be a barn-burner, knockdown, drag-out battle and I’m thankful we get to start it at home on Tuesday.”

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