The Florida Tech Panthers dropped their third straight game on Saturday, falling to the Tampa Spartans 74-69 in a regional men’s basketball game at the Bob Martinez Athletic Center.
The Panthers put up another great effort in the second half, but as they did against Barry on Thursday, the good guys simply didn’t have enough time left to complete the comeback.
“If you told me we were gonna go to Tampa and hold them to 69 points, I would tell you we are winning that game,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims. “I didn’t think either team was the better team out there today, the stats don’t lie and they are as close as the score was.”
Sesan Russell led the Panthers in scoring with 18, 10 of those coming in the second half. He also had eight rebounds and six assists to lead the Panthers in those categories.
“Sesan played the point for us today and he had to pick up the slack for our forwards,” said Mims. “He was not only our leading scorer but our leading rebounder. We need guys to step up.”
Mekhii Noble had 14 points, and Nieja Jordan had 11 points and six rebounds.
Sean Houpt finished with eight points and freshman Jacob Crockett had seven points and four boards in his Panthers debut. Crockett had two of Tech’s seven three-point field goals in the game. They were 7-of-25 as a team from long range.
“We shot 28 percent from three and they shot 25 percent. We get a couple more of those to fall and we are in the 80s where we should be,” said Mims. “This is a team that’s capable of making 15 threes in a game, but we just aren’t there yet. We have missed some easy shots the last couple of games and that cost us.”
Coach Billy Mims had said previously that getting guys back would help this team and that process started today as George Nehma (2 points), Darragh O’Sullivan, and Trey Schaneville (2 points) all saw their first action of the season.
Russell’s three-ball with 3:05 gone in the game put the Panthers up 5-4 and one from Houpt on the next possession made it 8-6 Panthers. Noble had a couple of hoops in succession, tying the game at 12. A 6-0 run from Tampa a short time later made it 22-14, before another three by Russell cut it to five. The Spartans then went on a 7-2 run and led by 10, 29-19.
A three by Crockett, five points by Noble and a layup by Nehma sandwiched in between equaled a 10-point run for the Panthers and just like that, it was 29 all. Tampa would close the half scoring the final four points and lead 33-29 at the break.
The Spartans 11-4 run started the second half and gave them a 42-33 advantage. That was followed by an 11-0 run that gave the home team a game-high 18-point lead, 56-38 with 9:27 to go.
The Panthers (0-3) were far from done. Schaneville’s basket broke up the Tampa run and a three by Jordan cut it to 10 with 3:08 to go, 68-58. Florida Tech would shave five more off with a three by Houpt backed up by two free throws. Niall Harris would score, cutting the lead to 70-67 with 57 seconds to go.
Unfortunately for the Panthers Mykah Brown drained a three for Tampa 21 seconds later and it was 73-67. Houpt would hit to free throws to make it 74-69 but a steal by Jonathan Bryant with 15 seconds to go, salted this one away for Tampa. Bryant was Tampa’s leading scorer, dropping in 20. Max Jones had 16.
“We just don’t quit,” Mims said. “We had a 15-point run to go from 18 down with 9:27 down to three down with 1:00 left. They kept their top dogs on the court all night and we had a 15-point swing in the final 8 minutes.”
“When we cut it to three, we had all the momentum shifting to us,” he continued. Then 21 seconds later he hits that three. You just can’t let him get open for that shot.”
For more info: Florida Tech @ Tampa Box Score
The Panthers are scheduled to face Palm Beach Atlantic on Wednesday, March 3 at home. Tip time is set for 5:00 p.m.
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