Valur Valsson is the new all-time career assist leader at Florida Tech after he had 10 assists in the Panthers 77-70 win over Embry-Riddle on Saturday at the Clemente Center. Val now has 429 career assists one better than previous record holder Chris Carter.
“Tonight, he had nine points, seven rebounds and he also had three steals to go with his record-setting 10 assists,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims after the game. “I’m so proud for him, I couldn’t be happier for Valur because the NCAA took away his freshman year, so he had to sit out and redshirt. He only was allowed to play three of his four years, yet in three years he’s eclipsed everybody that even played four years in front of him.”
“His name is etched in Florida Tech basketball history as the number one floor general, passer,” Mims continued. “I don’t know professionally, or collegiately, if I’ve ever coached a player that sees the floor as well as he does.”
Runako Ziegler led all scorers with 26 points. Derek Murphy had 17 points and 10 rebounds, picking up his ninth double-double of the season. Nieja Jordan had 12 points, and Trey Schaneville finished with eight points and four rebounds.
The win came on a night when the Panthers were without Sesan Russell, Niall Harris, and Mekhii Noble, all dealing with different injuries. Add to that the fact that Jalen Hodges picked up his fourth foul with 4:29 left in the first half, and you marvel at the fact that the Panthers were able to pull this one out.
“We said in the huddle before the game that we weren’t gonna focus on who we didn’t have,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims. “And Derek Murphy looked at me and said we have depth. We played eight players tonight and it was one of those total team nights. No matter how many minutes they played, I got contributions from everybody that stepped on the floor.”
The biggest contribution came on the defensive end, as the Panthers held the Eagles in check in a big way.
“They shot 38 percent in the first half,” said Mims. “This is a team that shoots 49 percent… they are one of the best shooting teams in the country.”
“They shoot almost 39 percent on the season behind the arc. They shot 22 percent in the first half, and 20 percent in the second half, 3-for-15 behind the arc, he continued. That’s the best defensive performance of the season, and maybe the best defensive performance in my 15 years here.”
On the other side, the Panthers were 26-for-59 (44.1%) from the field, 7-for-20 (35.0%) with the three-ball, and 18-of-22 from the line.
This game was even early until the Eagles went on a 6-0 run to make it 12-6. They went up 18-10 before the Panthers went on a 7-2 run including a three by Schaneville, closing the gap to 19-17. A three by Ziegler moments later made it 22-20, and Valsson would hit one to give the Panthers a 25-24 lead with 3:33 left in the first half. A Ziegler three tied the game at 30, and after the Panthers went up 33-30, ERAU got a three from Romeo Crouch just before the buzzer tying things up 33-33 at the break.
These two teams battled in the opening minutes of the second half, tied at 40 with 15:07 to go. A three by Murphy made it 46-44 with 12:12 to go. That kicked off an 11-2 run for Florida Tech, with a Jordan hoop making it 54-46 with 10:03 to go.
ERAU (16-9, 8-9 SSC) stayed within striking distance for the next four minutes or so before David Park gave them a 62-61 lead with 6:12 to go. Two free throws by Ziegler gave the Panthers the lead and sparked an 11-0 run with most of those points coming at the charity stripe. That gave the Panthers a 72-62 lead with 2:39 to go.
A 7-0 ERAU run made it 72-69, but that was as close as the game would get, as the Panthers sealed it from the free-throw line.
For more info: Embry-Riddle @ Florida Tech Box Score
With the win, the Panthers improved to 11-14 overall, and 5-12 in the conference. They will travel to Tampa on Wednesday night, still in search of the first road win of the season. The game against the Spartans tips off around 7:30 p.m.