Florida Tech’s Comeback Attempt Falls Short in Hoops Road Loss Against Tampa

By  //  March 1, 2021

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Panthers host Palm Beach Atlantic March 3

Florida Tech (0-3) battled back to slash an 18-point deficit down to three with less than a minute left in the second half, however, the Panthers would come no closer as time ran out in their 74-69 loss to Tampa (2-2) on Saturday at the Bob Martinez Center. (Florida Tech image)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech (0-3) battled back to slash an 18-point deficit down to three with less than a minute left in the second half, however, the Panthers would come no closer as time ran out in their 74-69 loss to Tampa (2-2) on Saturday at the Bob Martinez Center.

Sesan Russell led Florida Tech with 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Mekhii Noble added 14 points on 6-8 shooting and two blocks while Nieja Jordan recorded 11 points and six rebounds. Sean Houpt tallied eight points and four rebounds, and Jacob Crockett pitched in seven points and four rebounds in the game.

Jonathan Bryant II paced Tampa with 20 points and Martin Lakovic recorded 15 points and 10 rebounds. Max Jones added 16 points for the Spartans and Derrick Felder had seven points, eight rebounds, and nine assists.

The Panthers went 24-57 (42.1%) from the field in the contest, including 7-25 (28%) from deep, and 14-18 (77.8%) on free throws. UT shot 26-57 (45.6%) in the game, 6-24 (25%) beyond the arc, and made 16-22 (72.7%) at the charity stripe. Tampa won the rebounding battle 38-34.

“We executed the offense and defended Tampa well enough to win, holding them to 74 points on their home floor,” said head coach Billy Mims. “We lost because we couldn’t get the shots to fall. Our team got a ton of great looks on offense, and the shots we wanted to take, but we just couldn’t get them to fall.”

Russell scored the game’s opening basket and then knocked down a three-off assist from Runako Ziegler to put the Panthers up 5-4 early in the first half. Consecutive layups by Noble tied the game at 12 with 14:08 left before halftime.

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A 15-5 run by the Spartans gave them a 27-17 advantage with 6:21 to go, at which point Mims called a timeout to settle his team. After the quick chat, the Panthers ensued on a 12-2 run and tied the game, 29-29, on a free throw by Noble with 1:19 remaining in the half.

Bryant II hit a jumper for Tampa and then converted a pair of free throws with 27 seconds on the clock to hand the Spartans a 33-29 edge at the break.

UT opened the second half on a 23-9 run to draw ahead 56-38 with 9:27 remaining, forcing Mims to call a timeout in order to make adjustments.

“Once we went down by 18, we knew we had to increase the pressure,” said Mims. “We switched from a half-court press to a full-court and went with four guards in the game. Our team picked up their intensity level and really got after it. It definitely changed the momentum in the game.”

Out of the timeout, Trey Schaneville made a layup, his first bucket of the season, to end a more than four-minute drought for the Panthers and kick off their comeback. A few minutes later, Crockett hit a corner three, was fouled and then converted the free throw for the four-point play to cut the deficit to 59-47 with 5:37 to go.

Russell accounted for eight straight points for the Panthers, making three layups and two technical free throws, to trim the margin to eight, 63-55, with 4:28 remaining.

Houpt connected on a quick three off an inbound pass with 1:29 left to make the score 68-63. After drawing a foul on the other end, Houpt knocked down two free throws and then assisted Niall Harris on a layup to make it a one-possession game, 70-67, with 57 seconds on the clock.

Florida Tech is back in action on Wednesday, March 3, hosting Palm Beach Atlantic at the Clemente Center. The game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

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