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Rollins Rocks Florida Tech

Mate Papai (21) – Sports Lowdown Photo

After winning four in a row, the Florida Tech Panthers lost their second consecutive game Wednesday night, dropping an 89-66 decision to Rollins in a Sunshine State Conference home tilt.

“We never shot the ball well tonight, there was no emotion or passion in our play,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims. “We were going through the motions and you can’t do that against this team, they’re the best team in our league.”

It was a rough shooting night for the Panthers, to say the least, as they hit 25-of-66 shots from the field (37.9 percent) and went 10-of-37 beyond the arc, good for 27 percent. Rollins had 23 points off 16 Panther turnovers and had 15 second-chance points to 10 for the home team.

“We had two poor practices preparing for this game, we were nonchalant in our approach to practice,” said Panthers head coach Billy Mims. “They thought, ‘we’re home, they’re gonna play zone and we’re gonna shoot the lights out’. I told them that’s not what it’s gonna take to beat Rollins and it looks like I was the prophet because the way we practiced is the way we played.”

Florida Tech (10-10, 5-7 SSC) missed their first nine three-point attempts to start the game. Despite that, they were only down 11-8 with 14:30 to go in the first half. Their first three-pointer of the game came with 12:45 remaining when RJ Coil made it 13-11 in favor of Rollins and then he got a layup on the next possession to tie the game.

A five-point run for the Tars was silenced by a three from Sam Daniel, who finished with 15 points. That closed the gap to two, 18-16 and then a three by Florida Tech’s leading scorer Jordan Majors cut the Tars lead to 20-19 with 10:17 to go in the half. Majors would finish with 22 points.

Rollins (13-7, 9-3 SSC) would go on a 7-0 run to lead by eight with 8:14 to go. They would keep the pressure on and up their lead to 36-23 with 4:22 to go and the Panthers trailed 39-26 at the break.

“We took 17 three’s in the first half but only 10 two’s, said Mims. “So we were settling for the three when we weren’t making the three and forcing the game from the perimeter.”

The only highlight of the first half for the Panthers was a ferocious block by Patrick Anderson on Eric Castaneda with 3:19 to go in the half. Anderson got some serious air and swatted the ball out of bounds with authority, knocking Castaneda to the deck in the process, without touching him. It was as clean a block as you’ll ever see, but unfortunately, as much as the crowd was into it, it didn’t spark the guys on the court.

“I didn’t really see any fire in this team tonight and that’s something I haven’t been able to say all season,” Mims said. “The body language at halftime looked like a team that had given up.”

With 2:54 left in the half, Antonis Pefanis left the game with a lower-body injury, needing help to the bench and he did not return. No update was available on him after the game, but the Panthers do not return to the court until next Wednesday, so hopefully, he will be okay by then.

Daniel and Majors hit three’s less than a minute apart to start the second half, but the Panthers still found themselves down 44-32. Sam Philpott, the reigning SSC Player of the Week answered with a dunk, making it 46-32 and another seven-point run soon followed for the visitors, giving them a 61-40 lead. Valur Valsson stopped the streak with a three-ball with 12:03 remaining, but this was a hole the Panthers were not digging out of.

A Darius Wright three-pointer did cut the lead to 16, 80-64 with 2:51 to go, but Blake Admire’s three with 50 seconds left gave the Tars an 89-64 lead and their biggest lead of the night, 25 points. Phil Bernhard scored the final points of the night for the Panthers with his layup coming with two seconds remaining. Bernhard came off the bench, as did Mate Papai, who scored six points in seven minutes.

A stat that stuck out to Mims in this one was the 46-28 advantage Rollins had in points in the paint.

“Here’s the funny thing about that stat, 10 of them came in the last three minutes by subs who came in the game late,” he said. “Mate Papai, Phil Bernhard and Darius Wright, so for the bulk of the game Rollins had 46 points in the paint, we had 18.”

For more info: Rollins @ Florida Tech Box Score

“Now is the perfect time for a bye weekend,” said Mims. “We got a couple days to lick our wounds and we are gonna take Saturday and Sunday off to give them a rest and then we’re gonna come back Monday and Tuesday and we’re gonna go hard both those days.”

Florida Tech will not see game action again until next Wednesday, January 30, at Lynn. Tip-off in that game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.