The Florida Tech Panthers lost a very costly conference game Saturday when they were beaten by Saint Leo 62-54 at the Clemente Center. It was only the fourth Sunshine State Conference win for the Lions, who snapped a three-game losing streak and are now 9-14 overall.
DeLise Williams did her part to try to get the Panthers in the win column, before eventually fouling out. She led the team with 17 points and had six rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Kailyn Ebb was the only other Panther in double figures, finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds before she too, fouled out.
This was an ugly game all around for the home team. They turned the ball over nine times and got outrebounded 37-31. They were outscored in the paint 30-20 and that was not lost on Panthers head coach John Reynolds.
“They (Saint Leo) dominated in the paint and we didn’t contest any shots,” he said. “I watched my team in Thursday and Friday’s practice and at shootaround go through the motions and not believe they had to be at their best and they just did what they want, so now, back to the drawing board.”
The Panthers (9-11, 6-8 SSC) went 0-for-15 from three-point range on Saturday and after scoring just seven points in the first quarter against Lynn on Wednesday, they backed that up with an eight-point first quarter against the Lions, who put up 17 in the first.
“Nobody can tell me they came out ready, focused to play,” Reynolds said. “That game was lost in the first 10 minutes and we even changed up our starting lineup today. In the end, we got out-toughed and that was the game.”
Florida Tech was 2-of-11 (18.2 percent) from the field in the first quarter and 9-of-25 (36 percent) in the first half.
Saint Leo used a 15-6 run in the second quarter to go up 32-20 with 2:29 left in the half. They would lead 36-24 at the break.
Delaney Bernard hit back-to-back three-pointers with 4:26 to go in the third quarter, helping the Lions outscore the Panthers 13-11 in the quarter. Bernard finished 4-of-6 behind the arc and poured in a career-high 18 points.
The Panthers were down 49-35 as the fourth quarter started and frustration started to set in with Williams picking up a technical foul with 8:38 remaining and her team down 49-38. Florida Tech started to chip away and got the game to within four, 54-50, with 2:22 to go.
Unfortunately, the Panthers then went cold for a stretch and were forced to foul with 48 seconds left and Nikira Hooks hit two free-throws, expanding the lead to six and they continued to build on it as Florida Tech was forced to foul the rest of the way.
For more info: Saint Leo @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers are now on the road for two games, starting Wednesday at Tampa. That game tips off at 5:30 p.m. They will be in Lakeland Saturday to take on Florida Southern in another 5:30 p.m. start.