It was a rough day at the Clemente Center for the Florida Tech men’s basketball team on Saturday. The Panthers lost to the fighting Knights 84-68 in a Sunshine State Conference clash.
“Lynn beat us on every position on the floor today,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims in his postgame interview. “We couldn’t defend, we got beat off the dribble, and that’s the worst performance we’ve had all season.”
Both teams were missing players, as Mate Papai and Mekhii Noble were out for the Panthers and Lynn was missing their leading scorer and two leading rebounders.
“Hats off to Jeff Price, his coaching staff, and every one of his players who did play in the game today,” Mims said. “They wanted it more than us, they played harder than we did, they played a lot smarter than we did. We looked like we were going through the motions out there.”
Lynn led 4-0 early and had a 10-6 lead before a three out of the hands of Sesan Russell made it 10-9. He would make another three with 10:44 to go, giving the Panthers a 17-16 lead. Brandon Bornelus answered immediately for Lynn, making it 19-17.
Bornelus finished with a game-high 26 points and Russell had 20 to lead the Panthers. Russell was quieted in the second half, scoring just four points.
After a free throw for Lynn made it 20-17, Bornelus would reel off five straight points and up the Fighting Knights lead to 25-17. Florida Tech answered with baskets from Russell, Niall Harris, and a three from Sean Houpt to make it 25-24 with 3:49 left. Houpt was the only other Panther in double figures, scoring 16 points.
After a Lynn three, Russell knocked down another behind the arc, cutting the deficit to one, 28-27. Lynn would score nine of the final 11 points in the first half and lead 37-29 at the break.
The teams traded points to start the second half but a three by Sam Grant with 14:58 left got the score to 41-37. Lynn would work it back to a 10 point lead 48-38, with 13:18 to go. They would increase the lead to 12 before the Panthers made a run.
A layup by Harris was followed by consecutive threes from Houpt and Jacob Crockett. Houpt followed that with a jumper that was good with 9:40 to go, and just like that the Panthers were within two, 52-50.
A Jamison Evans three stopped the run and Lynn went on one of their own, scoring 12 of the next 16 points and getting their lead back to 10. The visitors coasted from there, as the Panthers ran out of answers.
For more info: Lynn @ Florida Tech Box Score
This is the Panthers’ fourth straight loss, and there are no excuses as far as Mims is concerned.
“We’re not losing because we don’t have enough talent to win, we’re losing because we don’t have enough heart,” he said. “We don’t care enough when we get out on the floor.”
The coach made it clear that there is no set lineup come Monday when the team returns to practice. He is going to use this week’s practice to find the guys who work hard enough and show they want to win.
“You can lose by 16 playing anybody on the bench, anybody on the roster,” he said. “I wanna find guys that even if we get beat by 16 they’re gonna battle, we didn’t battle today.”
Next up for the Panthers is a trip to Saint Leo next Saturday, January 22. That game will tip-off around 4:15 p.m., following the women’s game.