The Florida Tech Men’s basketball season got off to a rough start Friday night, as the Benedict College Tigers came away with a 92-75 victory over the Panthers in the South Region Tip-off Challenge in Montgomery, Alabama.
Sesan Russell, who made such a big impact when he joined the Panthers after Christmas break last year, kept the momentum going in the new season. He led Florida Tech with a game-high 29 points. He went 11-of-24 from the field, including 5-of-13 from three-point range.
The Panthers were behind the eight-ball immediately in this one when Preseason All-American, and the Sunshine State Conference’s leading scorer from a year ago, Derek Murphy was hurt in warmups.
The loss of Murphy was felt early, as Benedict jumped out to a 13-7 lead and then went on a 27-6 run midway through the second half. The Tigers led 40-13 at that time and went to the locker room with a 50-20 lead. The Panthers shot 7-of-31 from the field and made just one of 12 threes. That three came from Russell to start the contest.
It would have been easy for the Panthers to bury their heads in their chests in the second half. They did anything but. Russell scored seven consecutive points, making it a 62-40 game. Florida Tech followed that with a 9-0 run with under 10 minutes to go, making it 68-57. In all, the Panthers outscored the Tigers 35-13 during that run.
The Panthers (0-1) would have to play aggressively as the clock was working against them. With that, came foul trouble and a 16-8 run by Benedict, to put this one out of reach.
For more info: Benedict @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers had a few new faces come up big Friday night, including junior guard Runako Ziegler who scored 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Junior forward Jalen Hodges had nine points and pulled down four rebounds to go along with three steals.
Florida Tech will look to get their first win of the season against the host Auburn-Montgomery Warhawks on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. EST.