The Florida Tech Panthers were the only team to come out of their Winter Classic with a 2-0 record. They finished things up Tuesday with a hard-fought 93-87 win over the Shawnee State Bears.
“I don’t know how we survived, hats off to Shawnee State,” said Panthers head coach Billy Mims in his postgame interview with Paul Van Scott. “They gave us everything we could possibly ask for and the game was tremendously close.”
The Panthers have now won three straight games and go into the Christmas break with a record of 6-6. Shawnee State falls to 8-5.
Jordan Majors who finished with just two points in Monday’s opening game against Miles came back with a vengeance on Tuesday, putting up a game-high 30 points, to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists and five steals.
“Jordan’s a gamer,” said Mims. He kept saying ‘coach, I’m fine, I’m fine’ and he played a great game. “I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a better player at finding a way to get to the basket in traffic and when he gets in the lane he’s almost unstoppable.”
Sam Daniel was next in line with 24 points, including hitting five three-pointers and pulling down six rebounds. Richard Coil finished with a double-double, scoring 23 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. He also had two assists and shot 9-of-12 from the floor.
“RJ just keeps getting better, he’s such a defensive presence out there on the court,” Mims said. “That’s his sixth double-double of the season I believe, and he knocked down two of our 12 three’s.”
The offense normally runs through those big three and it definitely did on Tuesday, with a combined 77 points. Valur Valsson contributed 10 points and nine assists, just missing a double-double of his own.
This game was an absolute shootout from the opening tip. Both squads were reliant on the three-point shot for much of the night, with the Bears going 13-for-27 and the Panthers right behind them, hitting 12-of-28. Shawnee State was 8-of-13 in the second half alone, and at one point hit eight of nine.
The Bears came out on a 10-2 run, but they got to 12-9 before Daniel hit a three-ball to tie things up with 14:33 left. He would hit another one moments later, before Bryan Rolfe answered with one for the Bears, tying the game at 15. Daniel was good again from deep with 12:48 to go, giving the Panthers an 18-15 lead.
Things went back-and-forth for a bit before Shawnee State opened up a 26-20 lead with 10:16 to go, after a three by Gavin Brown. Coil answered with a three, but the Bears stepped away again, opening a 29-23 lead, only to watch the Panthers rip off six in a row to tie it again.
Both teams would hit shots from long range again late in the half, but a tip-in from Daniel with 24 seconds left gave the Panthers a 38-35 lead at the half.
The hot shooting started immediately for Shawnee State in the second half. A three by Jayllen Carter tied things at 38 and Rolfe hit another, giving the visitors the lead, 41-38 and causing Mims to call a timeout one minute into the half. Daniel answered with 18:10 to go, tying things up once more.
It was a see-saw battle early on in the half before Antonis Pefanis and Valsson hit back-to-back three’s with 6:35 to go, gave the home team a 79-69 lead. Frederick Moore, who had four three’s coming into the game, finished with four on this night, including one with 5:55 to go, making it a 79-72 game.
“We ran every defense known to man in the second half, we tried every defense we could possibly run,” said Mims. “They shot 56 percent in the second half, but 62 percent behind the arc. About four of those eight three’s came when we were playing man-to-man.”
Florida Tech struggled from the free-throw line all night, but they made them when it mattered, as Majors hit two with 5.4 seconds left and Coil put the game away with two more, as the clock read 0.3 seconds. Up until that point, the Panthers were just 3-of-10 from the charity stripe and finished 7-of-14.
Points in the paint were the difference in this contest, with the Panthers holding a 42-26 advantage. The game was tied six times and there were 15 lead changes in this one.
For more info: Shawnee State @ Florida Tech Box Score
Stat to watch: Coach Mims mentioned in his postgame interview that in the Panthers 12 games, Daniel has hit 56 three-point shots. Last year, he set the all-time record with 96 made three’s. With the Panthers having 16 games left, not including the exhibition against Florida Gulf Coast on the 30th, there is little doubt that Sam will set a new record in this, his senior season.
Next up for the Panthers is a Sunshine State Conference clash against Palm Beach Atlantic at the Clemente Center. The men’s game follows 30 minutes after the women, who will tip at 2:00 p.m. There is a good chance that Patrick Anderson will make his debut for the Panthers in that game, according to Mims.
This was the final game for Paul Van Scott behind the mic at Florida Tech, as he will be heading to Georgia in the new year. We would like to wish Paul all the best in the future. He did a great job with Jerry Durney on the football broadcasts and was equally as good on the basketball broadcasts with Jim Mitchell. Thank you Paul for all the great moments you gave us during your time at Florida Tech.