Photo credit: Florida Tech Athletics – Photo used with permission
The Florida Tech Panthers hosted Tampa on Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams. The Panthers picked up an 86-77 victory and evened their record at 3-3.
Before the game, Florida Tech honored Trey Schaneville and Nieja Jordan, as those two seniors will be moving on after this season. Schaneville still has two years of football eligibility left and has accepted an offer to play football for the Appalachian State University Mountaineers.
After the ceremony at center court, it was back to the business of basketball and the Panthers did that in this game, led by Sesan Russell who had the Panthers first triple-double since 2013 when Corbin Jackson did it on December 20 of that year.
Russell, who was one assist shy of the feat on Wednesday against Florida Southern, left no doubt on Saturday, with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. He went 9-for-19 from the field and hit four of his 11 three-point attempts.
“For the week he averaged a triple-double,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims. “He was the Sunshine State Conference Player of the Week last week and I have a hard time believing he wouldn’t do that again this week.”
Sean Houpt put in another good performance with 14 points, including 3-for-9 from long range. Runako Ziegler went 5-for-6 from the field, giving him a 10-point day. Schaneville just missed a double-digit day, as he had nine points including going 3-for-8 from three-point territory.
All three of our main shooters, Trey Sesan and Sean had a good day behind the arc,” said Mims. They hit 10 of our 12 threes.”
Russell scored the first seven Florida Tech points while freshman Max Jones scored 13 of the Spartans’ first 20 points.
“Jones has been great for them this year,” said Mims. “To me, he is easily the rookie of the year in the conference.”
The opening 10 minutes produced a see-saw affair producing five ties. A layup by Mekhii Noble put the Panthers up 27-22. A Tampa three was quickly answered by Russell and Florida Tech was up 30-24. Niall Harris and Houpt followed with consecutive threes and all of a sudden, it was a 36-24 lead for the good guys in gray, with 5:24 left in the half.
Noble would add a couple of baskets late and the home team went into the break with a 46-35 lead.
Russell scored the first five points of the second half and Houpt made a layup to extend the lead to 53-37. Another three by Russell would extend the lead to 17 with 15:48 left. Tampa whittled the lead to eight before the Panthers stepped on the gas again.
A 7-0 run that included a three by Schaneville made it a 69-54 game. Schaneville would hit again from deep, putting the Panthers in front 72-56 with 9:55 left. Tampa worked the deficit down to nine twice in the final 7:50, but they could get no closer despite the Panthers going scoreless in the final two minutes.
One glaring stat that jumps out at you in this game is the disparity in free-throws. The Panthers shot just six free-throws all game, despite the Spartans playing aggressive man-to-man defense. That is obviously a strength for Tampa, but you want the game a little more even in that category.
For more info: Tampa @ Florida Tech Box Score
These two teams will meet again Tuesday night in the opening round of the Sunshine State Conference. The game will be held at the Clemente Center and is scheduled to get underway at 6:00 p.m.