The Florida Tech Panthers fell to 0-3 in the Sunshine State Conference Saturday, suffering a 97-83 loss to the Eckerd Tritons at the Clemente Center.
“We got out-toughed today, Eckerd just played tougher than us,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims. “They wanted it more than us and they were physically tougher, mentally tougher than we were.”
The loss wasted a 31-point night from Jordan Majors and a 25-point performance from Sam Daniel, who also led the team in rebounds with seven. Both of those were stellar outings, but the Panthers did not have another player in double figures. The closest was Valur Valsson, who had nine.
Eckerd (8-1, 3-1 SSC) had five players in double figures, led by 22 from Trevon Young and 15 from Keshawn Ingram. Travis Bianco had 14.
“They made nine three’s as a team, seven of them came from Ingram and Bianco,” said Mims. “I guarantee you every one of the three’s they shot. they were wide open because in our zone we weren’t flying around and contesting shots like we needed too.”
The Panthers (3-6, 0-3 SSC) shot 46.7 percent from the field (28-of-60) and made 15 of their 31 three-pointers, but it just wasn’t enough. The Tritons were 41-of-67 (61.2 percent). That included a second half that saw the visitors go 20-of-29.
The big difference in this game was rebounding. The Tritons held a commanding 40-20 advantage by the end of the night, including 13 offensive boards. Eckerd was credited with 15-second-chance points, though Mims thinks that total was more than 20. On the other side, the Panthers had five.
“Offensively I thought we did a really good job,” Mims said. “I thought we executed really well, we just didn’t get enough second chances because we didn’t rebound very well.”
The game was back-and-forth early, tied at 10,12 and 16 and 18. The Panthers got a bucket from Majors to lead 21-18 with 12:21 left in the first half, but a three by Travis Bianco put the Tritons up 23-21 with 11:01 to go and cranked up an 8-0 run by the Tritons.
A three by Darius Wright cut it to 29-24, but Bianco answered with one of his own. Eckerd put another 7-0 run together with 7:19 to go and rode that to a 51-39 halftime lead.
“At halftime, we only had two offensive rebounds and one of those was a team rebound because the ball went out of bounds,” said Mims. “When we dug a 12-point hole, one player had an offensive rebound. One. That’s a recipe for disaster.”
Eckerd kept the pressure up for the first 5 minutes of the second half, expanding their lead to 67-50 before Majors hit another three. The Panthers got to within eight points when Valsson hit a three with 8:29 to go, but that was as close as the Panthers would get.
The Panthers had no answers for Eckerd, as the Tritons were able to get easy buckets inside all day. The Panthers tried to change up defenses throughout the game, but nothing was working.
“The multiple defenses we ran I thought we did a good job in all of them here and there, but we weren’t consistent in any of them,” said Mims. “We had moments of greatness, just not enough of them.”
For more info: Eckerd @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers have not been full strength yet this season and their lack of depth hurt them again in this game. Patrick Anderson, Derek Murphy, and Antonis Pefanis have yet to see the floor this season and although Mims is not using that as an excuse, it is a fact.
“The three kids that aren’t playing right now are probably the toughest kids in this program,” said Mims. “We’re not just missing talent, experience, and veterans, we’re missing toughness. Against Lynn and Eckerd, toughness matters.”
That said, Mims was impressed with the play of his three freshmen Mate Papai, Wright and Nieja Jordan.
“I love their passion and I loved their effort when they got in the game,” said Mims. “Whether their stats are magnificent or not, when they came in the game today, they made us better. We played tougher, played smarter, we played harder. The three freshmen gave us something today and that’s another step forward in our depth and our development for the future.”
The Panthers will not play again until next Saturday, December 9, when they travel to Fort Lauderdale to take on Nova Southeastern in another conference tilt. That game will start 30 minutes after the women’s game, which is scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m.