The No. 2 ranked Nova Southeastern Sharks played like it on Saturday, beating Florida Tech 115-58 at the Clemente Center.
Turnovers and a smothering NSU defense were the difference in this one, as the Panthers played well for the first 11 minutes or so, and then the Sharks took over. The Panthers turned the ball over 29 times, leading to 42 Sharks points off those turnovers.
“They’re 20-0, they’re number two in the nation, and tonight I told Jim Crutchfield, their head coach they looked like number one in the nation to me,” said Panthers head coach Billy Mims in his postgame interview. “We just need to put this one behind us.”
Niall Harris got the Panthers started with a bucket and a three by Runako Ziegler made it 5-3. Sesan Russell put them up 8-5 with a three of his own and they would lead 11-7 moments later on a three out of the hand of Sean Houpt.
Russell was the only Florida Tech player in double figures with 10. Harris and Ziegler finished with nine each.
After Nova tied it at 11, Russell drained another three, giving the Panthers a 14-11 lead. Ziegler would make a couple of baskets and the Panthers led 20-15 with 11:19 to go in the half. A six-point run by the Sharks earned them a 21-20 lead, and free throws by Harris made it 22-21 Florida Tech.
A 13-2 NSU scramble followed and they were up 34-24 with 6:05 to go. A Mate Papai basket cut it to eight, but the Sharks would finish the half on a 14-0 run and they led 50-28.
The Panthers were 11-for-25 in the first half, good for 44 percent. They were just 4-for-12 (33.3 percent) from deep, and 2-for-4 from the line. Nova was 16-for-34 (47.1 percent), and 5-for-13 from three. The huge disparity came at the line, where the Sharks were 13-for-17, good for 76.5 percent.
Nova (20-0, 15-0 SSC) picked up right where they left off to start the second half. An 8-0 run in the opening minutes made it 64-35. Houpt would hit free throws to stop that, but the Sharks kept coming with a 7-0 run later in the half, to go up 75-39. They would boost their lead to 50, 97-47 with 7:43 to go in the contest.
They coasted from there and ended the night shooting 41-for-74 from the field, (55.4 percent), while the Panthers were 21-for-48 (43.8 percent). Surprisingly, the Sharks finished with just two more three-pointers than the Panthers, as NSU was 7-for-19 (36.8 percent), and the Panthers were 5-for-19 (26.3 percent).
Nova won the glass 43-24 and points in the paint 56-24. The fast-break points were lopsided, with NSU having a 35-3 advantage in that category.
“They are relentless in their pressure,” Mims said. “We didn’t have anybody on our team that handled that pressure. We spent the last two days working on nothing but our press offense and obviously we just didn’t do a very good job of executing the gameplan.”
“I don’t think we were physically tough enough tonight,” he continued. “And we certainly weren’t mentally tough enough to compete with what I think right now is probably the best team in the country.”
For more info: Nova Southeastern @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers hit the road Saturday for a game against Lynn. Tip time is set for shortly after 4:00 p.m., following the women’s game.