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Panthers Earn First Win With Rout of Johnson & Wales

Valur Valsson scored 17 points in the Panthers big win on Tuesday.

The Florida Tech Panthers men’s basketball team snapped their four-game losing streak in a big way on Tuesday, rolling to a 107-67 victory over Johnson & Wales University. The Panthers made 18 three-point baskets in this contest and shot 57.1 percent from the field, hitting 36 of their 63 shots.

The Panthers (1-4) had five guys in double figures, led by Jordan Majors 29 points. Sam Daniel had 22, Michael Milligan finished with 20. Valur Valsson (17 points, 14 assists) and Richard Coil (10 points, 13 rebounds), finished with double-doubles.

“I’m really proud of how we shot the basketball tonight,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims. “We had five really talented starters tonight that I thought for the first time, really fed off of each other. Our ball movement was good, our execution was good, our defense was good and our shot selection tonight was very good.”

The Panthers got off to a bit of a slow start, trailing 10-4 early, but stormed back to tie things at 10. The game went back-and-forth for a stretch, tied again at 17 with 13:21 to go in the first half. Florida Tech was sparked by a four-point play by Daniel and a three by Valsson, stretching their lead to 27-20 with 11:23 left. In all, the Panthers scored 11 straight points in that run and led 31-20. They would not trail from that point on.

FIT would follow that with a 12 point run, highlighted by back-to-back three’s by Valsson, extending the lead to 43-22, with 5:56 left in the opening stanza. Majors, Valsson Darius Wright and Milligan all hit threes before the end of the half, giving the Panthers a commanding 61-33 lead at the break.

Florida Tech shot an impressive 61.8 percent in the first half (21-of-34) from the field and 45.5 percent from three-point range, (10-for-22). Majors led with 17 points, Valsson had 15 and Milligan had 12. Daniel was held to just 13 minutes in the first half, because of two early fouls.

The Wildcats (1-5) were led by Nick Preradovic, who hit three threes early and finished with 12 points in the first half. He had six threes overall, accounting for all 18 of his points.

A 13-0 run by the Panthers in the first four minutes-plus of the second half widened their lead to 76-41. Mims subbed some guys out 4:16 to go in the contest and took the remaining starters out with 2:25 to go. It took Phil Bernhard seven seconds to hit a three-ball, giving the Panthers a 105-67 lead. A jumper from Harry Craik with 1:25 left, gave the Panthers the final margin of victory.

For more info: Johnson & Wales @ Florida Tech Box Score

During the four-game losing streak, the Panthers were getting hurt by turnovers. On this night, they only turned the ball over nine times, leading to 10 Wildcat points. In contrast, Florida Tech forced 18 turnovers and turned that into 24 points.

Other notable stats were the Panthers 32 assists, 10 steals and four blocked shots, three of those by Coil.

“When you look at Offensively, defensively, tonight was the first game this season that you’ve seen this Panthers basketball team pretty much play a complete game,” Mims said. “Success isn’t always measured in wins and losses and I think We’ve gotten better in every game we’ve played this season.”

Mims hopes that this performance will kickstart the Panthers and show them that they have a lot of guys who can shoot the basketball.

“More than anything, it gives us confidence in our ability to score, our ability to execute our offense and the ability to move the basketball,” he said. “We’ll see how we bounce back and turn up the play in the Thanksgiving tournament this weekend.”

The Panthers will play the second game of the tournament on Friday, hosting UPR Bayamon at 5:30 p.m. at the Clemente Center. The consolation game will take place Saturday at 3:00 p.m. with the championship to follow at 5:30.