Header pic: Sesan Russell
The Florida Tech men’s basketball team traveled to Daytona on Wednesday and gave a loaded Embry-Riddle team all they could handle before fading down the stretch in a 70-61 loss to the Eagles.
Florida Tech (9-10, 3-8) had the deficit down to two at a couple of points in the second half, including with 5:12 left after Jacob Crockett nailed a three to make it 61-59. ERAU made the next two baskets and went up by six with 3:45 left.
“It was a toe-to-toe game and I am really proud of our guys,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims by phone after the game. “We went on the road and competed with them for 40 minutes.”
Niall Harris led the Panthers with 13 points and five Rebounds. Sesan Russell finished with 10 points, as did Runako Ziegler who was back in the lineup tonight after missing Saturday’s game.
Mekhii Noble was not available again tonight and has not played since January 12 against Barry (five games).
The Panthers did well to pick up the slack, getting 20 points off their bench. Josh Mims had eight, Elias Martin had seven, and Crockett had five.
“We got great contributions from those kids,” said Mims. “We didn’t have any starters shoot over 50 percent but those three guys were 8-for-14 off the bench.”
This game got off to a slow start on both sides. Ziegler had the Panther’s first five points and the game went back-and-forth throughout the opening 20 with ties at 7, 9, and 12. The Panthers went over three minutes without scoring before a three by Sean Houpt gave his squad a 15-14 lead with 10:09 left in the half. He would come through with another three with six minutes left, giving Tech a 21-19 lead.
Both teams went more than four minutes without scoring before trading baskets. Embry-Riddle finished the half on a 6-0 run and led 28-23 at the break.
“We didn’t shoot well in the first half,” said Mims. “But we held a very talented team to 28 points and two threes in the first half, and seven for the game.”
Mims said the Panthers’ struggles in the first half were a big factor in the loss. They shot 8-for-29 (27.59 percent, including 5-for-16 (31.25 percent) from three.
The Eagles started the second half with a 10-3 run, pushing their lead to 38-26. Russell hit a three and Ziegler hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 38-31. Harris hit two from the stripe to make it 45-35 with 14:04 left followed by a three-point play from Martin to cut the ERAU lead to seven.
A 6-0 run from the Panthers included baskets from Martin, Mims and Harris closed the gap to 56-54 with 6:24 to go. Crockett’s jumper made it 58-56 before ERAU’s Romeo Crouch and Crockett traded threes to get it to 61-59.
That would be as close as the Panthers would get, as the Panthers went the final 3:19 without a point, allowing the Eagles to get out to the nine-point spread in the win.
“Crouch averages 20 points and we held him to 12 points on 5-for-12,” said Mims. “Elijah Jenkins scored a school-record 44 against Flagler and we held him to five tonight. Defensively, we shut down the guys we needed to shut down, but we needed to make more shots.”
The Panthers shot 50 percent as a team in the second half, going 14-for-28 from the field. They were good on five of 11 threes (45.45 percent, but couldn’t find a bucket at the end.
For more info: Florida Tech @ Embry-Riddle Box Score
Florida Tech will host Nova Southeastern in another conference game on Saturday. The Sharks are ranked number two in the country, with a record of 19-0, 14-0 SSC. The game will get underway around 4:20, following the women’s game.