The Florida Tech men’s basketball team rebounded from their opening night loss to Auburn-Montgomery in a big way Saturday, taking down the Benedict Tigers 91-77 in the final game of the NCAA South Region Tip-Off Challenge at the Clemente Center.
“I thought it was a total team effort tonight,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims. “We have a young team with only one senior. When you look at our bench, it’s freshmen and sophomores up and down our bench, so it’s gonna take some time.”
Antonis Pefanis, who was hurt much of last year poured in a career-high 27 points to lead a FIT squad that had five players score in double figures. Pefanis was 8-for-16 from the field, including 4-of-10 from three-point range. He was 7-for-7 from the free-throw line and pulled down seven rebounds.
“That’s a nice performance from Antonis,” said Mims. I’m so proud because he’s one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever coached. He’s a junior, he’s paid his dues, this is his time to shine and tonight he definitely did that.”
Derek Murphy had 19 points and Valur Valsson had 14, while R.J. Coil got his first of what will likely be many double-doubles, with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He was 4-for-4 from the field, 1-for-1 from behind the arc and 4-for-4 from the line. Mate Papai was the final Panther in double figures, with 14 points. He also pulled down five rebounds.
As the score indicates, the Panthers had a good shooting night, shooting 50 percent in the first half (14-of-28) and 52 percent in the second half (13-of-25). They also went 31-of-38 from the free-throw line, an impressive 81.6 percent.
The Panthers were down early 3-2 but reeled off six straight points to force Benedict into an early timeout. They went up by 10 when Coil hit his only three of the night to make it 18-8 with 14:18 to go in the first half.
Another three by Pefanis put them up 25-17 with 10:39 left. He would hit another three a few minutes later, putting them up 32-22 and sparking a nine-point run, and give the Panthers a 38-22 lead with 5:22 to go in the first. They would go into the locker room with a 47-33 lead.
Florida Tech (1-1) would start the second half on a 7-0 run that started with another Pefanis three-ball. They never let Benedict cut into their lead much, keeping it between 12-15 points the rest of the way.
For more info: Benedict @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers will now get 10 days off before playing host to Puerto Rico-Mayaguez on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m.
“They’ll be a tough challenge because they won’t be as young as us,” said Mims. “Those Puerto Rican teams are always experienced, veteran type teams and they’re gonna come in here with tough, scrappy kids who are gonna handle the ball well, they’re gonna shoot the ball well and that’ll be a tough game.”