Derek Murphy was a one-man wrecking crew on Wednesday, as he manhandled the Eckerd Tritons defense, and scoring a career-high 44 points in the Panthers 71-63 win at the Clemente Center. He was the Panthers’ only double-digit scorer and led the team with eight rebounds.
Murphy played all 40 minutes and was 15-for-28 from the field, including 7-of-12 from three-point range. He also went 7-for-9 from the charity stripe.
“Offensively, it was a one-man show,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims. “His shooting numbers were off the charts. If that’s not a candidate for conference player of the week or national player of the week, I don’t know what is. That was just an incredible performance.”
As a team, the Panthers shot 35.9 percent from the floor (23-of-64). That includes 10-of-35 from behind the arc (28.6%). They shot just 68.2 percent from the free-throw line, going 15-of-22.
The Panthers (8-7, 2-5 SSC) found themselves down early in this one, 11-4 before Murphy hit a three with 13:45 left in the half, to cut it to four. He would then hit another three and a layup, giving him 10 of the Panthers first 12 points, and giving his squad a 12-11 lead.
He would hit another three with 5:27 left in the half, making it a 20-15 game. Eckerd battled back and led 25-23 at the half, with Murphy accounting for 15 of the 23.
Valur Valsson would hit a three to get the Panthers started in the second half, but it was a nip-and-tuck affair for the next few minutes. Murphy would drain a three with 16:28 left, giving the Panthers a 36-34 lead.
Eckerd (6-8, 2-4 SSC) closed the gap to 40-36 before Antonis Pefanis hit a shot with 14:57 to go. Murphy’s three-ball with 9:58 left, widened the gap to 10, 48-38. He would nail another long ball just over a minute later, making it 53-40.
The Tritons were a pesky group, as they fought back to get it to 55-48, They would eventually work it down to five, 59-54 before Murphy came through again from long-range, making it 62-54. The visitors would again cut it to five before Sesan Russell’s two free-throws made it 64-57. He would hit a couple more free-throws late, as Eckerd was forced to foul, helping the Panthers to a 69-61 lead with 15 seconds left.
Runako Ziegler put an exclamation point on the victory with a slam dunk, coming with six seconds left, and sealing the victory.
For more info: Eckerd @ Florida Tech Box Score
Next up for the Panthers is a huge conference battle against Nova Southeastern on Saturday. The Sharks were ranked fourth in the country but lost to Lynn 78-75 on Wednesday. Saturday’s tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.