Florida Tech (8-2, 3-1 SSC) saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end Saturday, with a 112-76 loss to the Nova Southeastern Sharks at Rick Case Arena in Fort Lauderdale.
“Ironically, we shot the ball well tonight,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims by phone after the game. “They beat us in the paint 64-34, they don’t beat you with jump shots and threes and you can’t beat a team like this when you turn the ball over 29 times.”
“We knew going in that we had to not turn the ball over and not get into a track meet,” Mims continued. “We didn’t do a good job of either. We tried to play the game at their pace and it’s impossible.”
The Sharks (6-0, 4-0 SSC) are ranked fifth in the nation among Division II teams and have won seven in a row. They were led by Sekou Sylla led five scorers in double figures, scoring 21 of his game-high 28 points in the first half.
Runako Ziegler led the Panthers with 22 points. Freshman Josh Mims added 12 points and Mekhii Noble had 10 points and nine rebounds. Noble was one rebound short of his 10th double-double of the season. His streak of consecutive double-doubles going back to last season ends at 10.
“I wish I had played him longer but that just wasn’t possible,” said Mims of Noble. “it was the nature of the game, we were so sloppy with the ball and they were pressing us. I didn’t have a chance to look at stats but if he had played his normal 30 minutes he would have had that rebound.”
NSU started the game 2-for-9 from the floor and the score was 4-4 early. Things went the Sharks way in a hurry as they reeled off nine straight points in less than a minute, giving them a 13-4 lead.
A three-point play by Sesan Russell and four points straight points by Noble including a dunk was followed by a Sean Houpt three, making it a 16-14 lead for Nova with 14:54 left in the half. They responded with a 7-2 run and led 23-16. Florida Tech closed the gap to 23-20.
The Sharks followed a 12-0 run that saw the Panthers go without a point in 4:07. Mims had a layup to stop the bleeding, cutting the deficit to 35-22 with 6:21 left. That turned into a 21-4 run and the hosts went into the half with a 48-25 lead.
Florida Tech ended the half 10-for-25 from the floor (40 percent). They made just one three in the half, attempting an uncharacteristic three in the first 20 minutes. NSU was 19-for-47 in the first half, good for 40.4 percent. They were 3-for-17 from three-point range and went 7-for-9 from the free-throw line.
Ziegler started the second half with a three-ball and finished a 7-0 run with a three-point play to get the Panthers back to within 17, 59-42. NSU answered with a 10-0 spurt and led 71-44 with 12:49 left In the second half.
Threes by Mims and Can Kaan Turgut made it 89-59 with 7:14 to go. Mims had 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
“It was nice to see a freshman be our second-leading scorer,” said Mims. Josh played almost 20 minutes against the number five team and was not intimidated. He went 4-for-7 and only had two turnovers.”
The Sharks were 23-for-35 in the second half, an impressive 66 percent. They were 42-for-82 overall, 51.2 percent.
Florida Tech finished 25-for-57 (43.9 percent) from the field, including 7-for-18 (38.9 percent) from three-point range. They were 15-for-19 from the free-throw line in the second half, finishing 19-for-24 (79.2 percent).
For more info: Florida Tech @ NSU Box Score
These two teams will meet again on February 5 at the Clemente Center.
“I can’t wait to play them again in Melbourne,” said Mims. “Hopefully we can dictate the pace and play the game we want to play.”
The Panthers will return to action this Friday, December 17 when they travel to Boca Raton to take on Division I foe Florida Atlantic University in an exhibition game. The game will start at 7:00 p.m.