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Panthers Comeback Short-Circuited by Buccaneers

The Florida Tech Panthers gave the Sunshine State Conference’s top-ranked team all they could handle Wednesday night, erasing a 16-point deficit, only to watch the Barry Buccaneers escape the Clemente Center with a 95-90 victory.

Barry shot 56.4 percent from the field (31-of-55), including 12-of-22, (54.5 percent) from long range. FIT was 33-of-60 from the field (55 percent), including 18-of-31 in the second half (58.1 percent).

“It was a hell of a game,” said Panthers head coach Billy Mims. “That was quality NCAA basketball. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Florida Tech (11-14, 6-11 SSC) had to overcome not only the league’s best squad that is ranked sixth in the region, they also had to overcome some very questionable officiating throughout. It is not an excuse by any means, but there were times on Wednesday that it felt like Barry was playing with seven or eight guys, instead of five.

Despite that, the home team had four guys in double figures, led by Jordan Majors 32 points. He was 10-of-18 from the floor and hit 11 of his 15 free-throws. He also chipped in with five rebounds, seven assists, and a block. Sam Daniel wasn’t far behind, pouring in 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-4 behind the arc and 6-for-6 from the line. He had five rebounds, three assists, and a block.

Daniel fouled out with five seconds left in the game, following RJ Coil, who fouled out with 2:31 to go and the game tied at 76. Coil had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Michael Milligan finished with 10 points.

The Panthers really struggled in the first half, going down 18-10 early, when Sawyer Glick hit a three with 12:35 to go. They would get it to 18-14 and later to 26-21 with 7:17 left in the half, but Daniel Mortensen, who led the Bucs with 20 points, hit a three and it didn’t take long for the visitors to widen their lead to 10, 35-25.

FIT did close the half on an 8-2 run to cut the Barry lead to 42-38 at the break. They did this despite going 0-for-9 from three-point land. Majors finished the half with 14 and Daniel had 10. They were matched by Mortensen and Marko Tomic.

“We were 0-for-9 from three and we had some great looks,” said Mims. “If we had made a few of those looks then I think we win the game.”

Florida Tech shot 15-of-29 from the field and went 8-of-10 from the free-throw line. Those numbers combined to help them keep their head above water.

The second half didn’t get off to a great start for the Panthers, who quickly found themselves down 52-40 with 16:34 left. They would fall down 60-44 before Coil hit the first three of the night for his team with 14:03 left. Daniel then converted on a three-point play the old-fashioned way and cut the lead to 10, 60-50. He wasn’t done, as he splashed down from long range, to make it 60-53.

He would then drive for a layup, get the hoop and the harm and make the free-throw with 11:22 left, only to hit another three with 10:48 left, making it 62-59. After Coil scored to cut the lead to one, Patrick Anderson got into the act, hitting a three-ball with 9:36 to go, giving the Panthers a 64-62 lead with 9:36 left.

Antonis Pefanis who hasn’t played much this season due to injury and depth at his position got plenty of playing time on Wednesday and made the most of it. He hit a three with 9:03 to go, giving the Panthers a 67-64 lead. Anderson’s layup with 8:44 to go, made it 69-63 Panthers.

“We had fought from 16 down in about six minutes to six up, a 22-point swing and all the momentum in our favor,” said Mims. “Then Barry went on a 10-0 run and unfortunately, I guess we didn’t defend as well as we could have because a lot of that run was free-throws for Barry. They got to the bonus pretty quickly and took advantage of it.”

Although Mims answer was a diplomatic one, anyone who watched that game will tell you that some guys in striped shirts decided to take over the game at a crucial time.

The game went back-and-forth for a bit before Daniel’s three with 3:29 to go, tied it at 76. Barry then made four consecutive free-throws, to take an 80-76 lead that included the foul sending Coil to the bench.

Free-throws by Majors made it 82-81 in Barry’s favor with 1:49 to go, but a three-pointer by Elvar Fridriksson with 1:23 left, made it 85-81. He would follow that up with two free-throws on the next trip and the lead was six. Daniel would get a layup and Majors three made it 89-86, but that was as close as the Panthers would get, as the Bucs finished it at the line.

“The difference in the game was Barry made five more free-throws in the second half, they win the game by five points,” Mims said. “Barry shot more free-throws down the stretch, Barry Made more free-throws down the stretch, difference in the ballgame.”

For more info: Barry @ Florida Tech Box Score

Florida Tech is back on the road Saturday, heading to West Palm Beach to take on Palm Beach Atlantic. The game will tipoff sometime after 4:00 p.m., following the conclusion of the women’s game.