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Panthers Flat in Home Finale

The Florida Southern Moccasins only dressed seven players at Florida Tech on Thursday night and still came away with a 73-61 win at the Clemente Center.

“Our effort was poor in practice yesterday and I addressed it with them,” said Panthers coach John Reynolds. “It didn’t change tonight. I can coach basketball, but I can’t coach effort, their effort is their responsibility.”

The Panthers (3-4) were 25-for-60 from the field (41.7 percent). That included 9-for-28 on three-pointers (32.1 percent). As a team, the Panthers were 2-for-7 from the charity stripe (28.6 percent). 

“The free-throws were a good indicator of our focus,” said Reynolds. “We missed five of them.”

Aiste Vaitekunaite led the Panthers with 13  points and six rebounds. Fanny Paulin finished with 12 points, and Zoe Murphy was the final double-digit scorer for the home team, contributing 11. Fanny Hakanson dished out six assists to lead her squad in that category.

They were all overshadowed by Julia Jenike, who had a game-high 25 points for the Moccasins She had 20 points in the first half by herself, and the Panthers had 30 as a team. Jenike was 4-for-4 from three-point range and the Mocs finished 11-for-22 as a team from behind the arc.

“We switched off on Jenike in the first half because it was an easier defense,” Reynolds said. “The easier defense turned into no defense.”

Reynolds changed things up in the second half, using Lina Stranger-Johannessen on Jenike and she held her to five points.

Vaitekunaite scored the first seven points for the Panthers for the second straight game, helping them jump in front early, 10-6. A three by Murphy was thrown in as well, as Florida Tech got off to a 13-3 run and led 19-10. A Jenike three late in the quarter closed the gap to 19-15 after one quarter.

Southern started the second quarter with a 5-0 run and the Panthers struggles in that quarter included a four-minute scoring drought. Despite that, the game was tied at 24, tied at 27, and tied at 30. 

Jenike did hit two threes late in the quarter, helping the Mocs go to the locker room with a 38-30 lead. Florida Tech finished the quarter 2-for-11 from the field.

Florida Southern picked up where they left off, reeling off seven straight points and led 45-30. At that point, Reynolds called a timeout and made wholesale changes, subbing in Jaida Hall, Cheyenne Scott, Irene Vicente, Makyla Daniels, and Jamielyn Jarvis.

The move paid immediate dividends with Vicente hitting a jumper. Jarvis had a couple of baskets and Hall made a three to close the gap to 50-42. A Murphy three made it 52-47 with 2:22 left, but Florida Southern finished the quarter on a 6-0 run and led 58-47 as the game entered the final 10 minutes.

“I put those subs in and didn’t keep them in,” said Reynolds. “I went back to the starters but I needed to trust those subs and I didn’t, shame on me. The most important job of a coach is to identify who’s playing well and let them play, I didn’t do that.”

Paulin’s jumper and Murphy’s three cuts the Mocs lead to 58-52, and a Hakanson three made it 60-55. Vaitekunaite then made consecutive baskets to make it 60-59 with 5:56 left. That was as close as the Panthers would get, as FSC went on a 13-2 run to end the contest, The Panthers were held scoreless for the final 3:07.

“I didn’t go into the locker room after the game because I didn’t want to overreact,” Reynolds said. “If you’re a college basketball player you gotta make a shot. When you turn the ball over 11 times in the second half, there isn’t much I can say.”

For more info: Florida Southern @ Florida Tech Box Score

The Panthers are scheduled to play one more regular-season game at Tampa on Saturday. The game will get underway at 2:00 p.m.

“They are 3-0 and they are the real deal,” Reynolds said of the Spartans. “We will have our work cut out for us.”