Despite four players in double figures, the Florida Tech Panthers (0-2) dropped their second game in a row Saturday, losing to host Auburn-Montgomery 88-84 during the final day of the South Region Tip-off.
With Derek Murphy missing his second consecutive game, the Panthers had to rely on youngsters to pick up the slack, and they did. Sophomore Sesan Russell played all forty minutes, leading Florida Tech in scoring for the second straight night, pouring in 22 points to go with six rebounds and four assists.
Junior Runako Ziegler finished with 17 points and six rebounds, as did sophomore Mekhii Noble, missing a double-double by one rebound. Junior Jalen Hodges added 11 points and six rebounds.
As they did in Friday night’s loss to Benedict, the Panthers fell behind in the first half, before making a run in the second half.
These two teams traded the lead a handful of times in the first eight minutes, but AUM went on a 15-3 run to go up 37-23 game. An 8-0 Panthers run made it 37-31 with 5:37 to go. The Warhawks extended their lead to 10 before a Hodges dunk sparked six straight points by the Panthers and made it 46-40. AUM hit a three to extend the lead to nine at the break.
The Warhawks (1-1) extended their lead to 11 early in the second half, but threes by Russell and Ziegler cut it to four, 53-49. AUM got it back to 10 with just over 12 minutes to go before a 7-0 run that included a three by Antonis Pefanis and two free-throws by Noble cut it to 67-65 with about nine minutes left.
The Warhawks got it back to five a couple of minutes later, but the Panthers battled back to make it 74-73 after two freebies by Pefanis. Russell tied it at 75 with a layup with 5:14 to go. He would hit two free-throws moments later to tie it at 79.
Darrion Taylor’s three with 2:24 to go gave the home team an 82-79 lead, and they would extend the lead to 86-80 with 41 seconds left, and that was too much for the Panthers to overcome.
For more info: Florida Tech @ Auburn-Montgomery Box Score
The Warhawks shot 48.4 percent and were helped by 10 three-pointers. Florida Tech was 25-of-63 (39.7 percent) but struggled from three-point range, going 5-for-22.
Florida Tech opens their home schedule this Thursday against the Johnson Suns on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.