The Florida Tech Panthers had a three-point lead with 16.5 seconds left on Wednesday, but couldn’t put the visiting Embry-Riddle Eagles away. Elijah Jenkins three with 1.6 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime, where the Eagles pulled away for an eventual 84-79 victory at the Clemente Center.
With this loss, Florida Tech has now lost eight of nine conference games on their home floor. That is something that has not gone unnoticed by Panthers head coach Billy Mims.
“This is the most disappointing home performance from any team I’ve had in 31 years as a head coach,” he said. “We’re 6-4 on the road in this conference and I think that’s the best road record any team at Florida Tech has ever had on the road in men’s basketball. You look at how many times this season we’ve had big leads at home and found a way down the stretch to beat ourselves. That’s what happened again tonight.”
Jordan Majors third straight 32-point effort wasn’t enough to get the Panthers the victory. He also pulled down 10 rebounds, giving him a double-double. Sam Daniel finished with 17 and seven, while Patrick Anderson added 12 points and three rebounds.
“We couldn’t have asked Jordan to do much more for us, said Mims. “Maybe get one more rebound or foul one more time, but it’s hard to ask him to do anything more than he’s done. Sam Daniel has been the nation’s leader in scoring all year and he’s broken every three-point shooting record Florida Tech’s ever had. Those two guys have had incredible All-American type senior seasons, but you can’t be an All-American on a 12-15 team.”
FIT (12-15, 7-12 SSC) got off to a good start with Daniel scoring the first five points of the game. Majors hit a three to make it 8-2 and they were up 12-4, 4:58 into the game. Michael Milligan made it 15-9 with a triple of his own, but the Eagles fought back, getting it to 15-12 before a three by Valur Valsson.
Majors followed with another three, extending the Panthers advantage to 24-15 with 8:39 to go in the half. A three by Anderson at the 6:07 mark, made it 30-18. Unfortunately, the Panthers got into a bit of foul trouble and the Eagles were able to take advantage, chipping away at the lead and getting it to 36-33 with 2:09 left.
Luka Majstorovic of Embry-Riddle finished a three-point play with five seconds left to give his team a 39-38 lead, only to see Darius Wright drain a three at the buzzer and send the Panthers to the locker room with a 40-39 lead.
Valsson’s basket with 16:56 to go in the regulation put the Panthers up 48-43, but from there, the wheels started coming off. The Panthers went from five up, to seven down with 7:33 to go in the half and were outscored 18-6 during that stretch, finding themselves down 61-54, after Brian Johnson hit a three.
“That was the run that was the difference in the game,” said Mims. “You can’t have that kind of run when you’re at home, your season’s at stake and your back’s against the wall.”
Despite all that, the Panthers made a bit of a run with a three by Majors, a layup by Anderson, followed by a three from Anderson, getting the Panthers within one, 64-63. Anderson hit yet another three to give the Panthers a 66-64 lead with 2:45 to go.
The game went back-and-forth from there, with free-throws from Valsson and Majors giving Florida Tech a 71-68 lead. Antonis Pefanis hit two more free-throws with 19 seconds left to give the Panthers a 73-70 lead and Mims called a timeout.
Florida Tech had a foul to give, so they used it and with 16.5, Embry-Riddle missed a three, Jenkins got the rebound, they missed another three but again got the rebound and the Florida Tech defense closed on Nashad Mackey. He turned and found a wide-open Jenkins, who drained the game-tying three with 1.6 seconds on the clock.
“I told them before we went out there, just foul them, let’s not get beat on a three,” said Mims. “I’m screaming foul, foul and they didn’t foul. We had 15 seconds to foul somebody and put them on the line if we didn’t foul we needed to come up with one rebound to win the game and we didn’t execute. That’s kinda the way its been all season.”
For more info: Embry-Riddle @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers are now one game behind Saint Leo for the final Sunshine State Conference playoff spot. Saint Leo is 8-11, the Panthers are 7-12. Florida Tech finishes the regular season Saturday at home, against Nova Southeastern. Tipoff will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 4:45 p.m.